Chris Brown was at home Sunday morning when his cell phone rang.
It was hours after the seven-round NFL Draft had ended, and Brown’s agent, Jim Miller, was calling to deliver the news most athletes only dream about.
“He called and asked me if I had a bag packed,” Brown said, “told me we’re going to Dallas.”
The former Cal Poly dual-threat quarterback earned the right to try out with the Dallas Cowboys during the team’s three-day rookie minicamp that begins Friday.
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As of Tuesday morning, Brown had not yet signed a free-agent contract, though he anticipated putting ink to paper before his departure on Thursday.
The five-time Super Bowl Champion Cowboys were impressed with Brown’s performance during Cal Poly’s Pro Day in late March, when he worked out as a quarterback, wide receiver and defensive back in front of scouts from four NFL teams.
Backed by a remarkable collegiate résumé that includes rushing and passing for more than 3,000 yards in his career, Brown displayed the athleticism and toughness that made him one of the most explosive players in the FCS last fall.
Dallas took notice.
“I definitely put a lot of effort and a lot of time in to make sure that I was going to be able to adapt to whatever it is that they told me that they wanted me to do,” Brown said. “He was very impressed.”
Brown is the second member of his family to pursue a career in the NFL. His older brother, Terrence, signed a free-agent contract with the Cincinnati Bengals after graduating from Stanford in 2013. Terrence Brown played in two preseason games that year and now serves as defensive graduate assistant at the University of Washington.
“He just told me to be ready to use this opportunity to show them what I can do,” Brown said. “I’m just excited to get that chance.”
Whatever it takes
According the Cowboys’ website, the team plans to sign about 15 undrafted free agents leading into this weekend’s rookie minicamp.
That group — which, ironically, also includes Notre Dame wide receiver Chris Brown — will join the nine players Dallas selected during the draft.
Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott and Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith were the top two selections for a franchise that has consistently received significant contributions from undrafted free agents such as veteran quarterback Tony Romo and safety Barry Church.
For Brown, a Compton native and Dominquez High graduate, the opportunity to put on a Cowboys uniform has been a lifetime in the making.
“Hopefully it’ll really hit me when I put on my cleats and walk out on the field with the other the rookies,” he said. “I’m definitely excited, and when that time comes I’ll definitely be ready.”
Whether he spends more time at quarterback or wide receiver, Brown said he’ll do whatever it takes to make a lasting impression. His goal is to soak up every detail the Dallas coaches offer and to “not have to have them tell me more than once.”
Taking a closer look at Brown’s time as a Mustang reveals why Dallas has shown interest in an FCS-level, triple-option quarterback.
He rushed for more than 1,000 yards as a junior and senior, becoming the only quarterback in program history to reach that mark. The 38 rushing touchdowns he scored were a school record regardless of position, and his 75 total touchdowns matched Jonathan Dally for the No. 1 mark in Cal Poly history.
Brown was described by teammates as “the fearless leader” of an offense that led the FCS in rushing three consecutive seasons. His versatility was highlighted by scoring a touchdown running, passing and receiving twice in his career, once against Weber State in 2014 and again last fall against rival UC Davis.
“They’ve got a very, very special quarterback in Chris Brown,” UC Davis coach Ron Gould said in November. “He makes the thing go, and he’s electric, explosive. He does an unbelievable job of making plays when there’s nothing there.”
Brown turned in arguably his best performance of the season against the Aggies in his final road game. He completed 6-of-9 passes for 153 yards and three touchdowns, rushed for 160 yards and another score, and caught a 30-yard touchdown pass in a 55-38 victory.
Wide receiver and former team captain Jordan Hines, who also worked out at Cal Poly’s Pro Day, said Brown was always ready to play no matter the circumstances.
“He’s kind of the center of this team, I’m not gonna lie,” Hines said during the season. “As a quarterback, as the captain, we all look up to Chris Brown.”