‘Best decision of my life’: Derrick Brown cherishes his last ride at Auburn
Derrick Brown thought about all the legendary award winners who had come through Auburn before him.
He named them: Tracy Rocker and Nick Fairley. Cam Newton and Bo Jackson. The late, and great, Pat Sullivan.
And then his heart sent his mind to his little son Kai
Brown was sitting in the trophy room in the Auburn athletics complex, dubbed the Rane Room, where dozens of awards glisten in clear cases. There showcased is the shimmering 2010 national championship trophy. From 2009, there’s the boomerang-bound Outback Bowl trophy, of which Brown and the Tigers will try to win another next week. Then there are the granite figurines; the individual national awards won by those legendary former players, and now by Brown.
He hopes his new Lott Trophy will be in that room sometime.
And he hopes, sometime, when little Kai gets older, he’ll be able to come back to Auburn and see it.
Brown won the Lott Trophy for his stellar play this season, raking it in along with All-American honors and SEC Defensive Player of the Year nods, and while football isn’t about individual awards for the consummate teammate, it makes him proud to see his name etched in stone knowing his achievements won’t be forgotten.
He’ll be able to cherish them — and cherish them with the people he cherishes.
“To be able to leave something behind and be a part of the trophy tradition here, that speaks volumes by itself,” Brown said last week, as he and his teammates geared up for their last trip together.
Auburn plays Minnesota in the Outback Bowl on Jan. 1 in Tampa, Fla. The game is set to be broadcast on ESPN. Auburn is scheduled to arrive in Tampa on Thursday for workouts and bowl events.
It’ll be bittersweet for seniors like Brown, playing their last game in orange and blue.
But it’ll be one more chance to celebrate what they’ve accomplished together.
“Tracy Rocker, Nick Fairley, Cam Newton, Bo Jackson, Pat Sullivan. Those guys, man — Just being able to join a group of guys like that winning national awards, man, it’s crazy,” Brown said. “It’s something that I’m excited to be in. When it comes time for my son to come back here in a few years and we’ll be able to come back in and look around and those things still be here — I’m excited about that.”
Brown’s son Kai was born last December. He carried him through Tiger Walk the day of the Iron Bowl — the day of Auburn’s unforgettable 48-45 win over Alabama. His younger brother, Auburn freshman Kameron Brown, stepped through that same Tiger Walk. For everyone on the outside, it’s become easier to see why Brown did the seemingly unthinkable and passed up pro football last winter for one more season and the chance to finish his degree at Auburn
For Brown, on the inside, he’s been at peace.
“I made the best decision of my life by doing that,” Brown said. “I came back and was able to get more time to develop in football, as well as become a parent and be able to be there for my son. I made the decision a year ago. I was able to graduate. I got that done. Now I’m just kind of cruising on out.
“My little brother is here and I’m getting to finish out my season and he’ll be here with me.”
Those memories will last all the same.
They’ll stand — like names etched in stone.
Brown’s earned that. And it’ll never fade away.
“I look back and everything I wanted to come true has come true,” he said.