By now you are well aware of the fact that Antonio Brown recently gave a length interview with ESPN recently, for not the least of which reason being that we have been covering it extensively over the course of the past 24 hours.
While the vast majority of the focus has been paid to his most soundbite-worthy statements, some of which make him look bad, others that seem to support his story, the truth is that a whole lot of that interview had nothing or little to do with the Pittsburgh Steelers, but rather was about him, and his background.
Of course the two intertwine, and one of Brown’s issues with the team, he suggested, was that they never really understood who he is and where he came from and how that shaped who he is. Even he learned after the fact about himself and how he was defined by his early life.
“I never knew what the outlook was at the time in regards to the environment and the atmosphere I was in”, he told Jeff Darlington. “To where I’m at now when I look back it’s like, man, I really made it’. From around there, I could come back and be the inspiration for the guys there, so it’s humbling and gratifying for me because I give the ones where I’m from hope seeing what I’m doing”.
Brown grew up in Liberty City, the name of a specific neighborhood in Miami, which is as well-known for its gang activity as it is its ability to churn out NFL-quality football players. He said of his childhood, “it was in Liberty City. A kid bouncing around a lot, grandma house, mama house. Growing up playing football in the street, tackle in the grass”. Still, he also knew that he had it better than most.
“I would say we never went without. My dad was a talented player, he made sure he gave my mom to make sure we was alright. I never [wanted for anything]. I just was in Liberty City”. He recalled “a lot of gang violence, a lot of gun violence, a lot of distractions in the midst of me growing up. But I had a great enough support system and a great enough people around to lead me the right way. Guys from the block that you met today that knew at a young age what was important to me, playing football”.
At least from what he is sharing publicly, he sounds as though his roots, his identity, and his family are becoming a higher priority to him as he gets older, heading into his 10th NFL season in 2019. “Just to be able to be at peace and to know who are you, where you come from and what you stand for”, he said. “When I go to those places over there, it just give me that motivation and that encouragement to just know that everything all right. I come from nothing. I come from an area where guys get killed. The drug dealers go to jail. It’s like, that’s the thing. But that wasn’t my thing. I took another approach and a smarter way about it to be the difference”.
Still, while he reflects on his history, he chooses not to be defined by it, as much as it has shaped the man he is today. “Everyone want the sob story. I’m from the hood, I came from nothing, so I got a nothing mentality”, he said. “No. I came from that, and now I got everything. I used to have a whole lot of nothing, now I got a whole lot of everything. And that came with growth. It came with discipline. It came with hard work. It came with dedication. It came with focus. It came from not letting people bring me down with what they say. It came from knowing who I am, standing on good foundation”.