Story: Eagles nearly lost AJ Brown to another sport during offseason
Eagles’ GM Howie Roseman has had some infamous draft blunders in recent years.
Instead of taking another swing on unproven talent in April’s draft, Philadelphia sent first and third-round selections to the Titans for WR AJ Brown. The Eagles almost never had the chance to poach the Pro Bowler away from Tennessee, however.
Just months prior to the draft, Brown contemplated leaving the NFL entirely to pursue another sport. As contract talks with the Titans reached an impasse, Brown put out feelers for a potential baseball tryout — and he nearly landed one with the team that once drafted him.
“I was dead serious,” Brown told Delawareonline.com. “[The Padres] had reached out to me. They were about to invite me to spring training. They were just waiting on an answer from me.”
The only problem — the Padres wanted 100% commitment from the 25-year-old receiver.
“They were telling me if I’m [still] going to play football, then I can’t play baseball,” Brown said. “I can’t just play around with [baseball]. So it kind of killed my chances for the moment.”
After batting an impressive .365 during his senior year at Starkville High School, Brown was drafted by the Padres in the 19th round of the 2016 MLB Draft.
His selection undoubtedly would have been higher if not for the team’s knowledge that Brown intended to attend Ole Miss and play football. Brown joined Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray as just the second-ever athlete to play in both the baseball and football Under Armour All-America games.
“It was like watching a grown man on a field of high schoolers,” Padres scout Stephen Moritz said. “Like, ‘Oh my God, this dude just scored from first, easy.’ The first time I saw him, I knew this was a different kind of athlete than 99 percent of the players we were going to scout.”
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While playing football at Ole Miss, Brown also worked with the Padres’ minor-leaguers during their extended spring training program in Arizona. Brown’s baseball background has helped him thrive in the NFL, evidenced by the 200 receptions and 3,000+ yards accumulated so far in his young career.
“Playing baseball definitely helps me with hand-eye coordination,” Brown said. “Tracking the ball over the shoulder. I think tracking the football is much easier than tracking a little small baseball.”
Philadelphia’s offense has hit the ground running to start the 2022 NFL season with Brown playing a pivotal role in the emergence of third-year QB Jalen Hurts. It’s safe to say the Eagles are happy that Brown didn’t give up football to chase his first love.
“Who knows?” Brown said. “Maybe when I’m done playing football, I’ll go play baseball.”
Mandatory Credit: Getty Images