Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown ordinarily reserves his tricks of the trade exchanges for some of the best among his peers. He and the likes of Odell Beckham, Jr. and T.Y. Hilton will talk shop over the course of the offseason in an effort to improve upon themselves.
He has a different motivation in taking on the project of talking to Cleveland Browns rookie wide receiver Antonio Callaway, and one that hits close to home. His home, specifically. Both wide receivers grew up in South Florida. Brown is also among the most frequent NFL comparisons for Callaway within the draft community.
In spite of his tremendous talent on the field that he put on display over the course of his college career, the Browns’ rookie slipped to the fourth round of the 2018 NFL Draft because of issues off the field, which included a failed drug test at the Combine, which his agent says was due to a diluted sample.
He spent the 2017 season out of the game after he was suspended by the Florida Gators. Brown doesn’t want to see another promising talent be taken down by the South Florida environment in which he was raised.
The rookie’s agent spoke to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN about the relationship that Callaway has formed with Brown over the course of the past several weeks. Bonding over exchanged messages on Twitter, it culminated in the pair working out together and even breaking down tape. The Steelers great was on hand at the former Gator’s draft party, even if he had to wait until day three to hear his name called.
“He has a special affinity for the kids that are from here”, said his agent, Malki Kawa. “He’s showing him not only what it takes to be a pro, but be one of the best”. And Brown would be a good person to learn that lesson from if you consider the position he was in when he came into the league as a sixth-rounder deep down the depth chart.
“He is trying to show Antonio that there’s a difference in him”, Callway’s agent said. “And all the kids [Brown] talks to, he can tell them he was a troubled guy, too — ‘I’ve had my struggles, but look what I’m doing, look how my life has changed for the better, the fruits of my labor’. He shows young players this is attainable, this is reachable”.
Brown has talked about the path that he himself has walked before. He split time during his youth living with his father and his mother. At one point, he was kicked out by his mother in part because of the path he was heading down living in South Florida, and so he moved back with his father—AFL great Eddie Brown.
There’s no denying that Browns has had flashes of immaturity over the course of his professional career, but he has seen through it all, and most importantly has never let it interfere with the effort that he brings to the game both on the practice field and in the stadiums all across the NFL.