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An interview with Derrick Brown, who hopes to be the next great NFL DT

Derrick Brown spoke with us about his connection with USAA, how his parents shaped his approach to being the best he can be, and more.

Outback Bowl - Minnesota v Auburn Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

If you had the opportunity to draft a player who might be the next Aaron Donald, wouldn’t you do it? NFL teams might have that chance tonight with Auburn defensive tackle Derrick Brown.

Brown was a beast at Auburn. He probably could have been a first-round pick after his junior season with the Tigers, when he put up 10.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks, broke up two passes, and added one forced fumble and a fumble recovery. But the athletic big guy returned, adding 11.5 tackles for loss, four sacks, four pass breakups, two forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries.

SB Nation’s Stephen White, a former NFL defensive lineman himself, said that he sees Brown as a Defensive Rookie of the Year frontrunner.

I totally understand why a lot of people are high on Ohio State edge rusher Chase Young. I am too, for that matter. But if I were picking at the top of this draft, it might be a coin flip between him and Derrick Brown. I don’t really think you can go wrong with either guy, but I see more intangibles in ways that won’t necessarily show up on a stat sheet from Brown than I do from Young. And that’s not a knock on Young as much as it is giving Brown his well-deserved props.

Brown took some to speak with SB Nation about preparing for the draft in these strange times, why he always strives for excellence on and off the field, and more.

He’s staying busy while sheltering in place

A global pandemic has thrown a wrench into the plans of so many NFL Draft hopefuls, but focusing on his training and preparation has given Brown plenty to do.

“You know, just staying busy, just like everybody else is doing,” Brown said. “Staying busy, trying to find something to do every day, and unfortunately, we’ve just got to deal with it, and we’ve got to be able to adjust on the fly, too.”

Obviously, getting physically and mentally ready to start his NFL career helps keep him busy. Adjusting to talking to teams virtually instead of in-person meetings hasn’t been that big of a change since this is the only time he’s gone through the draft process.

“I’ve never really done anything different, so I don’t know any different,” Brown said.

The physical side of preparation includes lifting buckets of sand that weigh about 80 pounds each, according to Brown. You can enjoy a glimpse of that in the video below that Brown made with USAA.

He’s not officially in the NFL yet, and he’s already giving back

Brown, who grew up in a military family, has teamed up with USAA to support our Armed Services and veterans. His dad, James, was active duty U.S. Army and also spent four years in the National Guard. His parents’ guidance helped Brown achieve plenty off the field, like being named to the SEC Student Leadership Council and winning the Lott Impact Trophy.

“I think it all ties in, the foundation my parents raised me on, and now when I do anything in life, I keep those same principles — hard work, being dedicated to the things I do,” Brown said. “My parents never accepted anybody being mediocre or anybody quitting anything. Once we started, it was something that you had to be able to finish. I’ve always kept that on my back and kept that chip on my shoulder about everything. That’s how I push through.”

Brown honors his father’s service with his ties to USAA, and it’s important to him to give back to veterans and active duty service members.

“(USAA works) a lot with the veterans, being able to give them experiences they’ve never had before,” Brown said. “I think that’s so important with somebody that’s done so much to protect this country and to protect us so we can go about our normal daily routine while they’re out on the front line.”

How does he like that Aaron Donald comparison?

“I’m grateful for it,” Brown said. “Having my name mentioned with a guy like that, that people see me as someone who has the potential to do what he does.”

Brown is a special player, but he’s probably out of the Falcons’ reach at No. 16. Dan Kadar at Mocking the Draft has Derrick Brown mocked to the Panthers at No. 7 in his latest, but Brown has the talent to come off the board sooner. We’ll see where he lands Thursday night in Round 1 of the 2020 NFL Draft.