Brown reflects on his Patriots journey

FOXBOROUGH, Mass -- It would be easy to appreciate what former Patriot Troy Brown, one of three finalists for this year’s Patriots Hall of Fame class, accomplished during his 15-year career as a wide receiver.

Too easy, in fact.

Because Brown’s work extended much further than just catching passes from the likes of Drew Bledsoe and Tom Brady. He was a jack-of-all-trades that left an imprint on all three phases of the game. A pass catcher on one play, a downfield blocker on the next and perhaps a punt returner and defensive back later, all within the course of 60 minutes of play.

Brown was, for lack of a better term, a football player. And that’s exactly how he wants to be remembered.

“I think I’ve said this before, maybe not the tallest or biggest or fastest or strongest or whatever, but just the best football player,” Brown said on a conference call with reporters Tuesday. “Maybe not the most outstanding wide receiver or most outstanding punt returner, but I think overall, pound-for-pound and everything else, I think the best football player.

“I feel like I could do a little bit of everything well. It didn’t matter what coach asked me to do, if it was go in and block, I just enjoyed playing the game, I enjoyed every aspect of the game, and down to the ‘who made the block, who did this.’

“And as long as I was able to get on the field and participate -- and if I could throw the block to spring somebody for a long run, if I could take a snap or two at cornerback, or go out and defend somebody, or go out and hold up the gunner on the punt return team. Whatever it was, I enjoyed just being on the field and helping my team win games.”

Brown, who has developed a post-football career in the media, admits there was a point in time that he “definitely” thought his playing days would be over before they ever truly began.

He was out of football for nearly two months in 1994 after being released by the Patriots, and returned home to his native West Virginia to take a job at the Guyandotte Boys and Girls Club.

It took a lucky -- or unlucky -- break in Brown’s favor to get the call from Patriots personnel executive Bobby Grier that the team wanted to re-sign him. Brown’s friend and former teammate with the Patriots, Ronnie Harris, had fumbled a punt return against the New York Jets, and the team went on to lose the game.

Brown would soon be back in the mix, and it would be the last time he ever had to worry about finding work as a football player.

Though much has changed since 1994, Brown still recalls the setting in Foxborough when he first arrived as an undrafted free agent out of Marshall.

“When I came out there, there was a little buggy horse race track out there and horse stables, and it smelled like manure on the back side of the stadium,” Brown said. "The bubble kept collapsing every time there was a heavy snowfall. What they’ve done with that place (Patriots Place) is just amazing.”

The stadium wasn’t the only thing to experience growth and improvement during Brown’s time in New England. Brown credits the Kraft family and Bill Belichick for part of what he described as the Patriots’ transformation toward “greatness.”