Na Brown knows what it’s like to get so close to the Super Bowl.
In the last season of his three-year NFL career with the Philadelphia Eagles, he and his teammates played in the 2001 NFC Championship Game against the St. Louis Rams.
The Rams escaped with a 29-24 win that day, and went on to lose the Super Bowl to …. you guessed it, the New England Patriots.
That started a run of four straight appearances by the Eagles in the NFC title game, losses for three consecutive years before breaking through by beating the Atlanta Falcons in 2004.
Philadelphia advanced to the Super Bowl behind quarterback Donovan McNabb and receiver Terrell Owens, where they lost a close 24-21 decision to ….. of course, the Patriots.
After a 13-year absence, the Eagles are back on Sunday in the biggest of big games vs. …. well, you know who.
And Brown will be cheering his team on.
The Fletcher resident, who completed his first season as the receivers coach for the Christ School football team in 2017, saw this year’s Philadelphia team in Charlotte during the regular-season meeting against the Carolina Panthers.
The Eagles won that game 28-23 and in talking with former teammates like head coach Doug Pederson and assistants Duce Staley and Eugene Chung on the field, they told Brown to look out for this year’s team.
“It was fun catching up with all those guys, and they told me something special was going on, that there’s something different about this team,” he said.
“So I started paying closer attention, and game by game, you could see what they were talking about.”
As a former player who just missed an opportunity to play in the Super Bowl, he has a sense of what his former teammates on the staff (Pederson was his first quarterback in the NFL, soon to be replaced by McNabb) and the current players are feeling.
“It was difficult to lose that game to St. Louis,” he said. “You get that close, you can feel it, almost reach out and grab it, and then you don’t make it. My wife and family already had their bags packed to go to the Super Bowl.”
After a standout career at North Carolina (165 catches for 2,086 yards, 14 touchdowns), Brown, 40, was a fourth-round draft pick of the Eagles in 1999. Their first-round pick was McNabb.
Brown caught 34 passes for 363 yards in 42 career games and was in five playoff games over his three seasons.
“I loved playing in the NFL,” he said. “Coming from a small town (Reidsville, N.C.) and to reach that height, playing with guys you looked up to as a kid, that was a big deal. It was a great experience and I enjoyed every minute of it.
“I’m very proud of the Eagles, and I’m really happy for my friends on the coaching staff. The NFL is a fraternity, and being part of the Eagles family, this puts a lot of pride in my heart.”
Brown would love to attend the game in Minneapolis, but a recent ruptured Achilles tendon makes that trip impossible, but he will be watching and rooting for his underdog team.
“I know the Patriots are unbeatable and they have (Tom) Brady and they have Gronk (Rob Gronkowski) and all that experience, but I know that the way the Eagles are playing, and the trust they have in each other, they are going to be hard to beat.”