LINCOLN — Last we saw Drew Brown, he was walking off the Memorial Stadium field in tears after Nebraska’s 56-14 loss to Iowa.
The realization that 4-8 Nebraska wouldn’t play in a bowl game to end his career was washing over Brown on the unseasonably warm afternoon.
But since then, the kicker has taken advantage of the longer-than-usual winter break. He graduated, spent the bowl season in the Cayman Islands and Christmas weekend with family in western Nebraska, spent a few days back home in Dallas and stopped in Lincoln a few times.
“It’s been fun to just kinda relax a little bit,” Brown said from Dallas last week. “Because once the new year gets started and I kinda flip the page in my career, I’ll need to really begin to focus on the next thing.”
That next thing for Brown is the NFL — or at least a shot at it — which is why Brown has tried to find an open football field to kick a few balls at every stop during his travels.
But before that, he’ll be honored one last time as a Husker. On Wednesday at the Outland Trophy presentation, Brown will receive the Guy Chamberlin Trophy, given to the Nebraska senior who shows the most “inspirational” qualities.
“I looked at the past winners and some of the names on that list are legends in Nebraska history, and it’s such a cool group to be a part of,” Brown said. “I always tried to carry myself in the best possible way I could off the field, and hopefully the performance on the field would take care of itself.”
Past winners include Jordan Westerkamp, Ameer Abdullah, Ndamukong Suh, Eric Crouch, Will Shields, Dave Rimington and Rich Glover.
In four years at Nebraska, Brown made 77.6 percent of his field goals (59 of 76) with a career-long 51-yarder. He was 24 for 28 his final two seasons. He also made 178 out of 180 extra-point tries. He was a Senior CLASS Award candidate in 2017 and was on the 2016 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team Watch List.
The Outland Trophy presentation will also honor linebacker Chris Weber with the Tom Novak Award and fullback Luke McNitt with the Cletus Fischer Native Son Award. Bobby Bowden will be receiving the Tom Osborne Legacy Award.
“We had a pretty small senior class so we were tight-knit,” Brown said. “Everyone really carried themselves the right way. You could’ve picked anyone to represent (the Guy Chamberlin) award, and I was just lucky to be the one that was selected.”
After Wednesday’s presentation, Brown’s NFL prep will kick into gear. For kickers, the road to a roster spot is tricky. After talking with his agent and his brother Kris, who played in the NFL for 11 years, Brown understands the journey is a series of hurdles.
The first is a bowl game invite — he was invited to the East-West Shrine Classic in St. Petersburg, Florida, on Jan. 20. Brown was one of two kickers selected for the bowl, which is a good sign for his draft stock, Brown said. The Senior Bowl is the top destination for graduating seniors, Brown said, and there are two kickers on that roster. Brown and his agent have been told he is the alternate for that bowl — or the third-best kicker in his class — a good sign for the future, Brown said.
Around the time of the Shrine Bowl, Brown should find out if he has an invitation to the NFL combine. If he does, Brown will go. If not, he’ll have his pro day in March in Lincoln.
Performances at either of those events will set Brown up for the NFL draft, April 26 through 28.
“If you’re not drafted, you’ll basically be signed either as soon as the draft ends or the next day,” Brown said. “Sometimes while the draft is going on, you’ll sign as an undrafted free agent.”
If Brown makes it that far, he’d begin rookie minicamp and workouts over the summer until the preseason. In the preseason, Brown said, teams will usually have two kickers on hand. From there, it’s a regular kicking battle. Whoever does the best makes the team.
“It’s really big to go into the training camp and preseason kicking really well and hanging in there,” Brown said. “A lot of it is being in the right place at the right time. It takes a lot of luck and performance at the best of your abilities for a long time.”
Brown isn’t blind to the nature of the NFL. He could get hurt in the next eight months. Get cut. Not get drafted. Brown graduated with a degree in supply chain management and has looked online for a handful of jobs. Just in case.
“You’ve gotta keep your options open,” Brown said. “My NFL career could just be this summer or it could be 10 years long. You just gotta be read for change quickly.”
In 2018, Nebraska will be in search of a starting place-kicker for the first time since Brown stepped on campus in 2014. It’ll be a battle between Cole Frahm, a walk-on from Omaha Burke, and Barret Pickering, a scholarship kicker from Birmingham, Alabama.
“I think they’ll split duties because Cole has a really, really strong leg. He’s so tall (6-foot-5) he gets so much leverage, which is good for kickoffs,” Brown said. “And I didn’t see as much from Barrett for kickoffs. That’ll be interesting to watch.”
Brown has an eye on the 2018 team already and said he can tell there’s a good deal of excitement in the locker room after the hiring of Scott Frost.
“I think it’s exactly what this program needed, for sure,” Brown said. “I was really pumped for him to be coach, but at the same time I was disappointed because I wanted to play another year.”