By Chad Courrier
Free Press Staff Writer
Ever since he started playing football when he was 6 years old, LaMark Brown dreamed of playing in the NFL, on TV, making big money, in front of large crowds, in huge stadiums, with all his family and friends watching.
But after a nomadic year of tryouts and some disappointment, Brown realized that professional football is a business, and nothing is personal.
“When you get to this point, you have to put your best foot forward because you never know who’s going to see you and which organization might want you,” Brown said. “You have to do things the right way because it only takes one team to like you. I’m just staying positive.”
Brown, a receiver who played at Minnesota State in 2011, signed a free-agent contract with the Minnesota Vikings on Monday, showing some loyalty to the team that signed him to the practice squad for the last few weeks of the season.
“I think (the Vikings) are becoming a championship team, and they like to develop their own guys,” Brown said. “They made it known that they wanted me to stick around so I’m going to stay here.”
Brown has been on an odyssey since leaving Mankato. He went to training camp with Atlanta, which tried to convert him to tight end, and he made it until the final cuts of the preseason. From there, he spent four weeks on the practice squad with Buffalo, then went for tryouts in Seattle and Indianapolis
He stuck for a week with Tampa Bay, but then had workouts with Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis. Finally, in Week 15, he landed with the Vikings.
“Playing in the NFL isn’t what everyone thinks it is,” he said. “The reason I got released in Buffalo and Tampa was injuries. It’s a numbers’ game, and you realize it’s just a business. You can’t take it personally.”
On his journey, Brown has been able to practice alongside Falcons’ stars Tony Gonzalez and Roddy White, and he got to watch Adrian Peterson nearly break the single-season rushing record as the Vikings made a late-season charge into the playoffs.
“When I was back in high school, some of these guys are the ones I watched on TV,” he said. “The amazing thing is that these players are the best at what they do, and they still work so hard.”
Brown will spend the winter at his home in St. Louis, then will be back in Minnesota for the team’s offseason workouts that begin in late April. The Vikings have moved him back to receiver, which is a better position for a 220-pound guy, and he’s hoping to stick with the organization long enough to participate in training camp at Minnesota State.
“Playing football is something I’ve always wanted to do with my life,” Brown said. “I’m going to do whatever I can to take advantage of this opportunity.”
Chad Courrier is a Free Press staff writer. To contact him, call 507-344-6353, e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, check out his local sports blog or follow his Twitter feed @ChadCourrier.