Playoffs, Diamonds and Dogpiles. And Smart Cars Too.

Kids, Playoffs, Diamonds and Dogpiles. Oh, And Smart Cars Too. 

The Duane Brown Almost-Tell-All Interview

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Texans Offensive Tackle Duane Brown a number of times over the course of the year. The first time we met, he confessed he was a pretty “boring and average guy” and that he may not make the best interview subject. After posting a simple question on Twitter and Facebook asking fans what they’d ask if they could ask anything from an NFL OT, I figured the best way to handle this interview was a smorgasbord of unrelated questions resulting in the most unflowing, yet highly informative and comprehensive interview of a pro athlete you’ve ever seen, so here goes

In the middle of my first question, his phone rings and politely asks if he can take the call. A few minutes later I hear, “thanks coach, that’s awesome, thanks!” and hangs up.

JL: Good news I presume?

D. Brown: (smiling) Yeah. Kubiak just told me I made it as an alternate to the Pro Bowl.

JL: That’s awesome buddy, congrats. Does that mean you get to go to Hawaii?

D. Brown: I guess if someone gets injured, yeah. But I plan to be getting ready for the Super Bowl, so I’m not worried about it.

Diamonds

Around Thanksgiving, Duane got engaged to his beautiful long distance girlfriend, Devon. For a big guy, he sure can be sneaky. They met up in LA for a little R&R and Duane said he had to fly to Dallas a day early. He planned a nice dinner for her, said his goodbye and then headed to a friend’s house to keep the surprise intact. The next day he surprised her at dinner, where many of her friends and family were, and pulled out a stunning diamond ring. Like most women, Devon had hinted around at the perfect ring she wanted to lay claim on her left hand for the rest of her life. Duane took those ideas and showed a handful of rings to her best friends. “They helped me choose the perfect one,” he said. The couple means business too – they’ve already set a date for July 13, 2012. As for kids, “Yeah – we’re taking our time with it. She has a lot going on with her career and I respect that,” Brown says.

JL: Long distance sucks, huh?

D. Brown: Yeah, but we get to see each other pretty often. I just flew up to NY and saw her for Christmas and she comes to almost all my home games.

JL: What was the best gift you got this Christmas? Was it those black and red Jordans you’re wearing?

D. Brown: People are going crazy over those shoes, right? All those fights – that’s crazy man. My girl got me a digital picture frame – that was probably my favorite gift.

The Blind Side

The main (and pretty much only) job of an OT is to protect the quarterback. In just 15 games this season, Brown has already had to protect three different QBs – Schaub who throws right, Leinart who throws left, and now Yates who is also a righty. Just as the movie indicates, there is such thing as a Blind Side, which when a right-handed QB is in, is Brown’s position as he plays left tackle. When a righty drops back in the pocket, he can’t see what’s coming from his left – he’s not as quick to move away from a defensive tackle or defensive end because he can’t see them. A few people asked if the change in QB throwing arms creates a change in play for Duane. “I don’t have to change my technique at all, our offensive scheme changes a bit, but my first priority is always to protect to the QB regardless of his throwing arm,” he says.

Since I write a sport’s column titled, The Blonde Side, I figured I’d ask about the 2009 movie starring Michael Oher.

JL: Do people understand your position better since the movie, The Blind Side came out?

D. Brown: I run across a lot of people that have zero idea about football and say I play left tackle. They always ask what that is and I reference the movie. They seem to get it after that.

JL: What about Michael Oher?

D. Brown: He’s a great player, great guy as well. I got a chance to meet him his rookie year.

Dogpiles and Clothes

Probably one of the best questions someone asked on Facebook was what really goes on in a dogpile? When I asked Duane, he laughed. “A lot of profanity, pushing, shoving, punching, kicking, more punching – anything to get the ball. It’s pretty violent down there,” he confessed. “Really, anything goes, but the refs do a good job to regulate as soon as possible. You gotta always pay attention.”

JL: You do seem to be at the bottom of a number of pile-ups.

D. Brown: I always try to be around the ball carrier to protect him and the ball. My first priority is to get the ball if a defensive guy knocks it out, but secondly, I gotta protect my teammates.

JL: I would assume as the biggest guy on the team, you are the one most of the littler guys look to for protection?

D. Brown: I think I’m the biggest…yeah, as far as weight, for sure. Eric (Winston) is taller than me, but I still weigh more.

JL: Speaking of your size, you’re 6-4, 320lbs, right?

D. Brown: Well I’ve lost a few pounds. I’m about 314 right now.

JL: Is it hard to find clothes?

D. Brown: (laughing) Yeah, it’s very hard to go shopping. I get a few things at Destination XL off Westheimer, but most of my stuff I buy online (like elevee).

Hokie Pride

As I’ve told Duane a number of times, I am not a Hokie fan. I grew up in Virginia, but something about those VT Hokies just drives me crazy. In response to my tweet, another of Duane’s fans asked what it was like coming out to “Enter The Sandman” at Lane Stadium. “It’s the most amazing feeling in the world – I’ve never felt an energy like that. The atmosphere in that stadium, the fans, the music – it’s second to none,” he reminisces. “Everytime I hear that song, I get goosebumps,” he continued.

JL: Do you think Devon will let you rock that song at your wedding?

D. Brown: (laughing) Nah, she won’t have that.

JL: How do you feel about the upcoming Sugar Bowl?

D. Brown: I’m proud of them to still make it to a BCS Bowl Game. It’ll be a pretty good one against Michigan. I think it’ll be a high scoring game; hopefully we can pull it off.

O-Line Success

It’s no secret that every year the Texans offensive line seems to get better and better. Someone wanted to know how much time these guys spend together during the season and the offseason because their cohesion just seems to work. “We all try to improve individually, but as a group, we are the most tight knit unit on the team. For the most part we’ve all been together the past three years. We have a feeling for what the guy next door is going to do so we don’t have to communicate a lot,” Duane explains.

JL: Who’s the hardest Defensive End you’ve had to block?

D. Brown: Dwight Freeney. He’s a sure 1st ballot Hall of Famer. I have to face him twice a year. I haven’t given up any sacks against him this year – I think I’ve finally figured out a game plan against him, but he’s tough.

JL: There’s been a lot of talk about the absence of Mike Brisiel…

D. Brown: It’s tough without him; I’ll give you that. It’s unfortunate that he got hurt (fractured fibula), but Antoine Caldwell has done a good job stepping up. Luckily he’s taken a lot of reps during practice and we really haven’t missed a beat. But Mike should be back for the playoffs.

Speaking of the Playoffs…

“I’m excited, man. This is unchartered territory for our organization and for me personally,” he said.

JL: Are you nervous?

D. Brown: Not too nervous. I’ve heard it’s a different speed in the playoffs. I’m more excited than anything.

JL: Your ideal Super Bowl matchup?

D. Brown: Well Houston obviously. I’ll go with Houston vs. New Orleans. Even though the Packers are doing great, the Saints beat us earlier this year (33-40 in Week 3) and now I’d like to return the favor. They also bring a lot of great fans to the game and that just ups the intensity.

New Year’s Resolutions

It’s that time when everyone, even athletes, create a laundry list of things they want to do better in the New Year. Just a few days away from that ominous day on the calendar, I asked Duane what his resolutions were. “I used to be big on New Year’s Resolutions, but why wait until January 1st to change something. There’s no better time than the present,” he says.

JL: That seems to fit you. Anything you’re currently working on at doing better?

D. Brown: Trying to read more. I get bored easily and I’m trying to break out of the video game habit. I’m currently reading Art of War.

Running and Smart Cars

As I’m currently training for the Houston Half Marathon next month, I couldn’t help but wonder how far the big man himself could run.

JL: Could you run a mile without stopping?

D. Brown: I could do a mile, yeah. It wouldn’t be pretty, but I could do it.

JL: What about a 5k?

D. Brown: A what?

JL: A 5k. That’s 3.1 miles.

D. Brown: Nah, not a shot in hell.

JL: I know I keep harping on your size, but you are the largest man I’ve ever see. It’s so fascinating to me. Think you could fit in a smart car?

D. Brown: (laughing) Yeah, I actually have. Danny Clark (former Texans Linebacker) used to have one and I could fit in there. It’s not comfortable though. It was a convertible too so I think that might have made it easier.

JL: I’d give money to see you in a smart car. If I could find a dealership and a photographer to make this happen, you game?

D. Brown: Sure.

Hear that Houston Smart Car dealerships? Call me – let’s make this happen.

This article was featured on Culture Map, Houston’s Daily Digital Magazine in the sport’s section.

This was also part of The Blonde Side’s 30 Before 30 series.