Antonio Brown's bond with father grows with AFL jersey retirement

PITTSBURGH -- Eddie Brown was with his son when the Albany Empire of the Arena Football League called him to offer a jersey retirement appearance.

Brown asked his boy, Pittsburgh Steelers star receiver Antonio Brown, to join him in Albany, New York, where "Touchdown Brown" became arguably the AFL's best player of all time. Antonio agreed, and the two have been celebrating the moment ever since.

The Browns will be honorary captains for Saturday's game against the Philadelphia Soul. Antonio is headed to Albany via private jet, of course.

"He was excited for me," the elder Brown said. "All last week, he had all kinds of things set up for me. We went on the yacht. On the boat, bottle of champagne on my retirement. We went to South Beach and had a great dinner. He's just been doing a whole lot of events to recognize me to say, 'I’m proud of you, Dad.' He's all-in with it."

Eddie Brown's ridiculous 950 catches for 12,736 yards and 303 touchdowns from 1994 to 2003 earned him an AFL Hall of Fame nod. Saturday is a chance to acknowledge the football standard that he tried to set for his son.

But it's also quality time with his boy, which he savors.

Eddie Brown wasn't around for much of Antonio's teenage years but eventually got more involved.

Antonio Brown grew up in the Liberty City neighborhood of Miami. He lived with various friends in high school and struggled to qualify academically coming out of Miami Norland High. He found a safe landing strip at Central Michigan, where his open-field playmaking earned him a sixth-round pick.

Eddie calls his relationship with Antonio "awesome" right now.

"Time always heals wounds," Eddie said. "I think he is starting to understand a lot more things but where he’s at now mentally, he feels there is no other bigger support system than having his dad by his side. And I’m honored. It's about building that family tradition of doing things together."

Antonio strengthened his case as the game's best receiver with 101 catches for 1,533 yards and nine touchdowns in 14 games last season.

Eddie won't be reminding his son who was scoring touchdowns first.

"I’m never in competition with him," Eddie said. "If you ask who was better, I’ll always tip my hat to him. He's the best."