Highly recruited out of Wichita (Kansas) East High School, running back Bryce Brown chose the University of Tennessee, where he rushed for 468 yards and three touchdowns as a freshman in 2009,. But when Volunteers Head Coach Lane Kiffin left for USC, Brown decided to leave as well.
Transferring to Kansas State, he sat out the 2010 season and then played in only two games in 2011, totaling 16 yards on three carries, before deciding to leave the university in late September
With such an atypical college career, Brown was taken aback when the Eagles picked him in the seventh round, 229th overall, of the 2012 NFL Draft.
"I was surprised, but grateful nonetheless, just given my history and what I went through in college," Brown says. "I was excited for the opportunity to get a chance to play the game."
Brown's chances of playing for Philadelphia improved during his rookie Training Camp, thanks in part to taking advice he was given to heart.
"I had a lot of guys who I felt like took me under their wing. LeSean (McCoy) was there. He was a great mentor," Brown says. "But the person I think made the biggest impact on me was Duce Staley. He was a guy that I felt like really cared for me. Not just as a football player, but as an individual.
"I mean, I'd played football since I was 5 and nobody has had the impact that he's had. The first time that I felt like that I played for someone other than myself is when I had my experience with Duce."
Making the team as McCoy's backup, Brown gained 140 yards on 29 carries over the first 10 games. But after McCoy was sidelined due to a concussion, the rookie was pressed into action and made his first start since high school when the Eagles hosted the Carolina Panthers on November 26. Was he nervous? Excited?
"I'll say both. It was an opportunity to show I could play the game. It was an opportunity to show that I belonged there. But I was excited and nervous. I can't say that I wasn't," Brown says. "The thing that I always appreciated with Coach (Andy) Reid was how he always let me know that they had confidence in me, they believed in me, and there's a reason why they drafted me despite all the things that were said.
"That always made me want to go out and do great things because they took a chance on me. So I always had that chip on my shoulder. I didn't want to let these guys down who believed in me, and I really felt like they did."
With a franchise-rookie-record 178 yards and two touchdowns against the Panthers, and a game-high 169 yards and two touchdowns the following week in Dallas, if someone's performance over back-to-back games determined who'd be heading to the Pro Bowl, Brown could have started packing his bags for Hawaii.
"Taking what I learned from (running backs) Coach (Ted) Williams and from things I learned from Duce, to just stay disciplined, we did a lot of preparation before the game," Brown says. "So a lot of stuff that Carolina did on defense, I knew it was coming. Being able to make the right read, and be in the right place at the right time, the preparation for those games helped.
"(The game against the Cowboys) was the same kind of deal. We spent endless hours outside of the regular time that we were there just watching film and recognizing different defensive fronts and things like that. So, again, just going the extra mile, putting in the time and the work, just being pushed by Duce, it helped me out a lot."
After Brown's rookie season, when he finished with 564 yards on the ground and four touchdowns, Reid left and was replaced by Chip Kelly.
"I was disappointed," he says. "Just because I already had a lot of love and respect for Coach Reid for just giving me that opportunity to play. I didn't have a lot of opportunities and he was the guy that took a chance on me. So to see him go, it was sad.
"But I also was excited because I was a huge fan of Chip Kelly. He recruited me in high school when he was at Oregon, so I did have a relationship with him and was excited to learn from him."
Brown would play only one season under Kelly before being traded to Buffalo in May 2014. Besides playing in every game over the two seasons and rushing for 878 yards and six touchdowns, what are the fondest memories from his time with the Eagles?
"Just the city. I tell people to this day that's like my second home," Brown says. "I really love the fans. I love the people. I love that they embraced me. I just enjoyed my entire time there. I really did. It's a special place for not just me, but my family as well. My (first) son (Beckham) was born there. My wife (Morgan) and I got married there. So that's a place that we consider home." They later welcomed a second son, Leighton, to their family.
After playing for part of the 2014 season with the Bills and then concluding his career with Seattle in 2015, Brown returned to his hometown and was the offensive coordinator at his high school alma mater for two seasons. He followed that by coaching wide receivers for two seasons at Butler Community College in El Dorado, Kansas.
On March 31, 2022, Brown was named as the running backs coach and transfer/junior college liaison at Tennessee Tech University.
"I learned things at the high school level, at the junior college level, and I'm sure I'll learn things at this FCS level as well," Brown says. "But everywhere I go, the most important thing is to leave an impact. To impact people's lives and develop those relationships. When they graduate and go into their careers, wherever it is, I want them to still be able to pick up the phone, 'Hey, Coach, I'm going through this. What was your experience like?'
"Just developing the relationships and seeing these guys mature, and hopefully have the chance to achieve some of their goals, whether it's on the field or off, I go back to the impact that Duce had on me. It's the same. I want to be Duce Staley to these guys."