Living up to the family name used to be a burden for Bears defensive lineman Keith Browner, whose father, Keith, Sr. and uncles Joey, Ross and Jim all played in the NFL.
“In the beginning it was an issue, because I look at my dad and all my uncles and just seeing what they achieved in the NFL,” said Browner, who played in three games over three seasons with the Houston Texans from 2012-14 and was out of the league last year. “But now as I talk to them, they tell me to just go out there and be yourself. This is your time to shine. I take that into consideration and just do my job.”
For Keith Browner, playing in the NFL is as much about being in the right place at the right time as much as being a Browner. And finally, he feels he has both factors on his side with the Bears. Browner made three big plays in the Bears’ 23-22 preseason loss to the Patriots last Thursday at Gillette Stadium — teaming with Jonathan Anderson to stop Tyler Gaffney for no gain on the goal line; beating starting center Bryan Stork to tackle Brandon Bolden in the backfield to snuff a two-point conversion; and tackling Gaffney for a two-yard loss in the second half.
That’s how the Browners do it. Joey was a six-time Pro Bowl safety with the Vikings (1983-91). Ross was a nine-year starter at defensive end for the Bengals (1978-86). Keith, Sr. started 44 games over five seasons with the Buccaneers and Chargers (1984-88). Jim started six games over two years with the Bengals (1979-80).
“It definitely takes the right situation,” Keith Browner said. “Whenever I think about my lineage, it motivates me. it makes me want to do more. It makes me want to do better and prove to everybody that I am a Browner and this lineage is strong and it’s in my DNA.”
Browner still is on the fringe of the roster behind back-ups Will Sutton and Ego Ferguson with no practice-squad eligibility remaining. But he’s making it a tough decision by making plays in limited reps, with particular short-yardage/goal-line effectiveness. Browner had another batted pass in Tuesday’s practice — continuing his growing momentum.
“Right now I feel more determined than ever,” Browner said, “because I’ve finally gotten an opportunity to prove myself and not be behind somebody great like J.J. Watt [with the Texans] and I’m able to show the whole world my talents.”