MINNEAPOLIS -- When Preston Brown was a linebacker playing high school football in Cincinnati, he'd grown particularly fond of how his favorite team -- the Bengals -- played defense. Theirs was an attacking defense, predicated on linebackers who could run and seek out ballcarriers, and Brown could see how he'd fit in the scheme engineered by defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer.
"I always thought it’d be cool to play under Mike Zimmer for the Bengals, and then seeing Rey Maualuga out there, it was good to see how he utilized those guys," Brown said. "I remember the story about his wife passing and all that (in 2009), and how sad that was. And I always watched those defenses, how they grew and got better."
With less than a month before the draft, it's presumptuous to assume the Vikings' interest in Brown is strong enough to give the Louisville linebacker his chance to play for Zimmer. But the team has certainly been doing its homework on the Cardinals' leading tackler. Brown met with the Vikings at the NFL scouting combine, and will travel to the Twin Cities to meet with them on Wednesday and Thursday, he said. He is meeting with the San Francisco 49ers on Monday and Tuesday this week, and also has worked out for the Atlanta Falcons, New England Patriots, Jacksonville Jaguars, Tennessee Titans and Buffalo Bills.
While at Louisville, the 6-foot-1 linebacker developed a reputation as a forceful tackler, and he could be a Day 3 sleeper if the Vikings are still looking for a run-stopping linebacker. His father, Mike Brown, was a linebacker at Ball State and went to training camp with the Denver Broncos in 1985, before coaching his son in high school and teaching him the importance of sound tackling.
"I guess that started when I was 6 years old, just playing football. I had fun putting guys on the ground," he said. "I know when I played running back, it was demoralizing when somebody would physically manhandle you. Playing with (safety and possible-first round pick) Calvin Pryor (at Louisville), it was a race to the ball.
"That’s one of the things I was doing since I was a younger child: Step into the tackle, bring your legs with you. It's something I’d take into account when I was younger."
Brown wound up playing for Charlie Strong, and in an odd twist, it was uncertainty surrounding the future of University of Minnesota coach Tim Brewster -- who beat out Strong for the Gophers' job in 2007 -- that led Brown to pick Louisville over Minnesota. The school was among the final three Brown was considering, and he met running back Adrian Peterson after a Vikings game while on his recruiting visit. If the Vikings were to draft Brown, he'd get a chance to start his NFL career where he nearly began his time in college: TCF Bank Stadium.
The Vikings will bring numerous other prospects to town on pre-draft visits this week for different reasons, and after the team's front office spent the weekend working out Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, its interest in Brown could be partially as a resource to learn more about Bridgewater. But if the Vikings did wind up drafting Brown next month, he'd relish the opportunity to play for Zimmer.
"Growing up, I was a big Bengals fan. Being in the AFC North, there were a lot of good defenses, and (Zimmer) brought one to Cincinnati," he said. "It seems like they're going to have things running right (in Minnesota)."