Altadena, CA native Chad Brown was a defensive star at John Muir High School in the late 1980s.
Brown took his defensive talents to the University of Colorado where he was a four-year starter for the Buffaloes.
Drafted by the Pittsburgh, the linebacker became an integral part of the famed Blitzburgh defense which included Greg Lloyd, Kevin Greene and Levon Kirkland.
Brown also played for the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots during his decade and a half long NFL career.
The three-time Pro Bowler and two-time first team All Pro also won the prestigious Steve Largent Award in Seattle and captured the Joe Greene Great Performance Award while playing in Pittsburgh.
In his retirement, Brown has made a successful transition into media, working as a radio host, a sideline reporter and a color analyst for various networks. Brown also owns and operates Pro Exotics, a company that sells non-venomous snakes.
I caught up to him to chat about his lifelong passion for collecting, his good natured beef with Levon Kirkland’s signature, seeing his rookie cards for the first time and much more.
Tony Reid- You were a 15-year NFL veteran, a multiple time Pro Bowler, a Largent Award winner, a Joe Greene Award winner and so much more. With all that you accomplished, do you have a mancave where you display memorabilia that you collected over the years?
Chad Brown-I do and I was forced to go through it recently as I sold my home in Colorado. I wasn’t one to have a giant room myself. (Years ago) I had the privilege of going to Reggie White’s house. A friend of ours was getting married and the ceremony was at his house as he was the officiant for the ceremony. At any rate, Reggie had this giant room at his house that was like the Reggie White Museum. It was amazing. It was full life sized figures of him in his various uniforms. It was incredibly well done and had to cost a tremendous amount of money. It was an awesome thing to look at but it was a bit much for me. I am a little bit quieter.
If you walk into my home unless you got all the way down to my basement where my workout room was, you wouldn’t see any football memorabilia. Yes, I had my Defensive Player of the Year trophy. I had pictures from various ad campaigns. I had various helmets from the teams I played on. I had a strange thing for gloves. I kept gloves from many of my stops. The glove thing grew and changed over the years. I have dozens and dozens of pairs of gloves that I wore, kept or that I got from teammates. I have a little bit of that stuff. I look forward to setting some of those things back up that meant the most to me.
TR–Being a standout at Colorado and the long career in the NFL, I’m sure you have been asked for your autograph countless times over the years. When was the first time you were asked for you autograph?
CB-I remember it very well. In my hometown of Altadena, California I was the big football star my senior year. I was in the local newspaper all the time. I was walking out of a local pharmacy. This kid sees me and says ‘Wow! Chad Brown!’ I stopped because that was the first time I got that reaction. He was digging in his backpack for a pencil and a piece of paper and he asked me to sign an autograph for him. That was the very first autograph I signed at seventeen years old. It was very, very cool. It was that first realization that not only are you successful on the field but also the realization that kids are looking up to you. It’s more than just being a good player it becomes about being a good role model along the way as well.
TR-Your rookie cards appeared in 1993 in Action Packed, Pro Set, Fleer Ultra and all of the usual suspects from back in the day. Do you remember the first time you saw yourself on a trading card?
CB– Yeah it was that rookie card. The image was one from the University of Colorado. My agent, like many card companies did at the time, they would send you 5,000 cards for you to sign for the deal. By the end of signing 5,000 cards I was sick of seeing that card! Its more cards than you think. When you are 21 years old someone says they will give you a few grand to sign cards you say ‘Send them all. I will sign them.’ By the sixth day in it was not fun anymore!
TR–Did you manage to hold on to your own cards over the years?
CB-Yes. I have a photo album of my various cards over the years. I get fan mail almost every day which just blows my mind. I am 51 years old and my last season was 2007. To get fan mail every day it is awesome, flattering and humbling. Every once in a while, I will get a version of a card from a fan that I don’t have. Maybe it has a different foil on it or it’s a glossy version but there are multiple versions of a number of my cards. I don’t have copies of all of those, unfortunately. When a fan sends me a card the last thing I would do is steal a fan’s card substitute it. There are other players that would do something like that but I wouldn’t. I’ve been tempted but I have never done it!
TR-In our messages leading up to the interview you’ve said you have collected a lot over the years. It’s always cool to see athletes that appreciate that side of sports. What would you say you’ve collected most over the years?
CB-As a kid in the late seventies, I had a football card collection. I had Roger Staubach cards. I had Tony Dorsett rookie cards and Earl Campbell rookie cards. I have a small collection that I recently put into boxes. I sat there on the floor of my workout room and poured over some of the cards and was wowed by that childhood experience all over again. To have that fascination with football players and football cards and to be in the NFL fifteen years later was pretty remarkable. The collector part of me has always been there. Not just with football cards. I did basketball cards for a while.
I am a huge Prince fan. I have hundreds of Prince records, DVDs and CDs. The same thing with Bob Marley. I also became a reptile breeder which started off having a reptile collection. The collecting mindset has always been a part of my life as long as I can remember.
Whatever is being collected may change but the desire to complete the collection or round it out or check off certain parts of the collection has always been there. It just gets moved forward in a different fashion. During the pandemic I got really heavy into Koi fish. I have a huge Koi collection in a huge pond. That collector heart of hearts is always there in side of me.
TR–I spoke to a fellow member of your legendary Blitzburgh linebacker crew in Levon Kirkland recently. One of the most special pieces in his office is a really cool picture of himself, Kevin Greene, Greg Lloyd and yourself. He holds you near and dear to his heart and I wanted to let you know that.
CB– I have a Levon Kirkland story to go with that. Levon is near and dear to my heart as well. Being a part of the linebacker crew-NFL Films has ranked us in the top ten linebacker crews of all time. For a while Greg Lloyd was the baddest man in football. We all know the type of player Kevin Greene was. I think Levon and myself were a bit underrated because their stars were so bright. We certainly held our own in that group.
A local t-shirt company in Pittsburgh put a shirt together will all four of us on there. I was going through my closet and I thought it would be great. I was going to send it to all of the guys and have them sign it. I was going to get it framed up and display it. It was different than just a jersey or a picture. It was a t-shirt with all of us with some nicknames on it. I thought it was going to be really cool.
When I got the box back from Levon, for some reason, he decided to sign with a purple Sharpie. I was so crushed. We were Pittsburgh Steelers. What in the heck does purple have to do with that? And I put Sharpies in the box, man! There are no more of these shirts. He decides to bust out the purple sharpie. Are you kidding me? I found them in my office when I was cleaning out for the sale of my house and I was re-disgusted again. I sat down and I had to go over his purple Sharpie with black Sharpie to try to salvage the shirts. Levon is my brother. I will love Levon forever but I will hold a grudge about the ruined Blitzburgh Linebacker shirts.