Today marks 96 days until the 2023 season begins, meaning that for today's edition of Chicago Bears Countdown to Kickoff, we will be looking at the best player in Bears' history to don the number 96, defensive end Alex Brown.
Chicago Bears Countdown to Kickoff: 96 Days with Alex Brown
Born in Jasper, Florida, Alex Brown quickly became a high school star at Jasper Hamilton County High School, serving as the team's starting quarterback and linebacker. During his senior season, Brown recorded 1,630 total yards and 24 touchdowns on offense and added 117 total tackles, seven tackles for loss, four forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, and two blocked kicks on defense and special teams. Brown finished his high school career as both his district's offensive and defensive MVP and was ranked as a top prospect by recruiting sites such as PrepStar, SuperPrep, and National Recruiting Advisor.
Following high school, Brown accepted a scholarship at the University of Florida, where he would turn his attention solely to the defensive side of the ball. A redshirt during the 1997 season, Brown did not officially get on the field until 1998, when he served as a backup behind future NFL star Jevon Kearse. Between being solid as a backup and even earning time on defense in the Orange Bowl following the season, as well as his standout play on special teams, Brown became a starter during the 1998 season, and recorded a team-high 13 sacks on the year.
From 1998 to 2001, Brown was not only a starting, foundational piece of Florida's defense but was regarded and celebrated as one of the elite defensive players, not only in the SEC but across all of college football. Brown finished his Gators career with 33 sacks, the most in Florida's history, and three All-American honors.
However, despite an illustrious collegiate career, Brown had to wait until the fourth round of the NFL Draft to hear his name called, lasting all the way until the 104th selection, where the Bears selected Brown in 2002.
Alex Brown Shines With Chicago Bears, Misses One Game in Nine Years
As a Chicago Bear, Alex Brown was added to the mix almost immediately, appearing in 15 games as a rookie and logging nine starts. His first season ended with 42 tackles and 2.5 sacks, with Brown entering the 2003 season as a returning starter at the defensive end position. From the beginning of the 2003 season to the end of the 2006 season, Brown was a full-time, healthy starter for all 64 games during that span. In those four seasons, Brown never had less than 5.5 sacks in a year and recorded 41 total tackles for loss.
The following year, Brown took on more of a reserve role, and despite logging time in all 16 games, the former Gator recorded only 2 starts and 4.5 sacks, his lowest totals since his rookie season. Brown returned to being a full-time starter in 2007 and 2008, with six sacks each season and nearly 30 total tackles for loss over 32 games.
However, the Bears decided to release Brown, who would eventually sign with the Saints, ahead of the 2010 season, due mostly to the acquisition of Julius Peppers, as well as the team moving Israel Idonije from defensive tackle to defensive end. With a number of other players such as Mark Anderson and Henry Melton deserving playing time across the defensive line, Brown seemed simply to be the odd man out in a talented and deep defensive line group.
Brown played one season with the Saints, where he started every game despite recording only two sacks on the year and retired from the NFL following the 2010 campaign. During his 9 year NFL career, Brown was never voted to a Pro Bowl nor an All-Pro team but was nonetheless a productive, consistent, reliable, and disruptive defensive lineman for nearly a decade. With 43.5 sacks in Chicago, Brown finished his career ranked fourth all-time in Bears history and third in team history in tackles for loss at 79.
Today, Brown works as a Senior Account Executive at Coyote Logistics and appears on NBC Chicago's "Football Aftershow" alongside David Kaplan, Lance Briggs, and former coach Dave Wannstedt following Bears games during the season. Brown also recently celebrated his 44th birthday, with the help of the Chicago Bears.