The 2021 NFL Draft features an incredibly deep and talented group of offensive tackles for teams to pick from.
A massive but athletic and versatile member of that crew, Northern Iowa’s Spencer Brown hopes to be among the first to hear his name called.
Brown didn’t get to play in 2020 due to the impact that COVID-19 had on his season, but he most recently went down to the Senior Bowl and proved that he’s been preparing for the draft at a high level. He didn’t miss a beat while going up against the best seniors in the nation in Mobile.
Brown recently spoke exclusively with The Draft Network about how his experience at the Senior Bowl, the small school question, how he chooses to play the position, and what kind of impact he’ll make at the next level.
JM: You come from Lenox, Iowa. The population is roughly 1,300. I think I have more people living on my street. Lenox is a small town if I’ve ever heard of one. You grew up on a farm growing beans and corn. I can’t make this stuff up. What was life like growing up?
SB: You kinda hit the nail on the head there (laughs). Life was simple. That’s what I always called it. There weren't a lot of extravagant events happening. It was simple living. I grew up on a blue-collar work ethic. If you weren’t involved in farming, owned a tiny local business, or worked at the local school, I’m not sure what you were doing in Lenox (laughs).
I grew up on a farm as you said. All of my buddies grew up the same way. We were all very outdoorsy. We helped our parents. We were either playing sports, fishing, or probably doing something we shouldn’t have been doing as kids (laughs).
JM: I love that. I want to get into your time in high school. You played basketball and baseball in addition to football. You were a multi-sport guy. How did it make you a better offensive lineman?
SB: It taught me how to be adaptable. I wouldn’t say that every single trait carries over, but it definitely teaches you how to adapt.
You were bouncing around from sport to sport. You would finish one sport and you had a week and a half before the next one started. You had to get back into the groove of things quickly. You always had to be ready to play a game. The transition part was a big help. We all learned as we went. Developing and getting better every day was a big focus for me.
JM: You’re doing some really special things as you prepare for this draft. You’ve been running through position drills with Joe Staley. What a terrific resource that is to have at your fingertips. You’re also working with well-known trainer Eric Renaghan at Sanford Power in Irvine, California. How would you describe the process so far?
SB: It’s been awesome. I’ve been watching some tape with Joe Staley on how the San Francisco 49ers installed their outside zone system at the time. You can imagine how amazing that’s been. Joe is helping us get ready to live the life of an NFL offensive lineman, both on and off the field.
Having the opportunity to learn first-hand from him has been amazing. It’s shocking really. I fangirled a little bit in the beginning because it’s Joe Staley (laughs). I grew up watching him play. To have him in our back pocket, I can’t say enough good things about it.
Training with Eric Renaghan at Sanford Power out here in Irvine, California has been great. He trains us a little differently from what I was used to so it’s been good. It’s always good to learn something new. I can already see the benefits paying off.
JM: That’s terrific. COVID-19 impacted your conference to the point where you didn’t get to play in 2020. You could have entered the transfer portal and played at a big program in 2020. From what I hear, you couldn’t imagine playing somewhere other than Northern Iowa.
SB: Loyalty is a big thing to me. Coach Mark Farley gave me a chance to play college football. He bought into my development and growth knowing damn well that I wasn’t a finished product. He believed in me from day one. He had a good idea of what I brought to the table and he made that investment in me.
That’s what it came down to. I couldn’t imagine playing for somebody else or at another program. I didn’t say no to the Senior Bowl, but I would have said no to the other power five schools. That wouldn’t have sat well with me, not at all.
I wouldn’t have been playing with my true teammates. Those people are going to be my friends for the rest of my life. Playing alongside those guys, playing for coach Farley, those were always the biggest factors that went into that decision. I’m a loyal person. I would have felt like I turned my back on them if I went to play elsewhere. I just couldn’t do it. It wouldn’t have sat well with me.
JM: I love that. I admire your loyalty and I respect the heck out of that decision. You went down to the Senior Bowl and you got to put pads on for the first time in a long while. I thought you shook the rust off rather quickly and had a great week of practice. What did it feel like to put those pads on again and hit somebody?
SB: I was super nervous. On the bus going from the hotel to the first practice, I felt like I was getting ready to play for the National Championship or something (laughs). I felt like throwing up. I was so nervous. I felt queasy. I was getting ready to hit somebody for the first time in 14 months.
Down there, it wasn’t like fall camp where you get a whole bunch of prep days before putting all the pads on. My first snap at the Senior Bowl, we were rolling off the ball and smashing heads.
I went through some growing pains. It was so nice to put the pads back on and play some football. I was knocking some of that rust off on the first day of practice. It is what it is. It was my first time playing in 14 months.
After that, I thought I got better every single day. I was learning from my past mistakes on a daily basis. It was a super great experience. I’ll remember it for a really long time. I competed against some fantastic players.
JM: What do you think is the overall impression you left on the teams in attendance?
SB: I proved that I’m not afraid of anybody. I welcome the competition. I don’t mind ruffling some feathers. I like to play football the way I think it should be played and that’s violent and physical. I don’t mind talking a little trash here and there.
I bring the violence on every snap. That’s the way I try to play the game. I got beat a couple of times, and there were other times where I did what I did at Northern Iowa and threw some guys on the ground and embarrassed them.
I play through the whistle. That’s what I want people to notice about my game on tape. I like to finish and I play through the whistle. I work hard and play even harder. I love the game. I have a great time out there with my teammates. I bring a lot of energy to the field.
JM: I can tell that you love the game. You brought up the competition factor. Who were some of your favorite D-linemen to do battle with out there?
SB: Daelin Hayes for sure. That dude put me on my butt during our first one-on-one pass-rush rep (laughs). I have a lot of respect for him. I have a lot of respect for Ohio State’s Jonathon Cooper as well. Shaka Toney was good. Those were the top three guys in my opinion.
We had a lot of fun together. I was rooting for them and they were rooting for me. We had some great discussions on the sidelines. We offered each other some advice and whatnot.
It was a fun, laid-back environment even though we were there to work and prove ourselves. I felt like they were my teammates for four years the way I was cheering for them (laughs). It was awesome. I was celebrating their sacks with them. I can’t wait to see them play in the NFL as well.
JM: That’s great. Somebody is going to call you a “small school” prospect throughout this process. It’s inevitable. Some draft analyst is going to overthink you and say something like that. How do you typically respond to that?
SB: It doesn’t bother me at all. Like you said, it is what it is. I’m sure somebody is going to say that. I think as soon as you start labeling guys as small school prospects you risk missing out on prime talent. That’s the type of evaluating process that will come back to bite you in the butt. You don’t have to label us anything. That’s your mistake.
Just because we come from a smaller school doesn’t mean that’s how we play the game. There are a lot of small school guys out there. Quinn Meinerz comes from a D-III school and was out there absolutely pancaking dudes at the Senior Bowl (laughs).
It just doesn’t matter. Don’t scout the logo on the helmet. Once we put the pads on, you can get embarrassed and beat by anyone, especially if you’re not taking them seriously.
That’s how I answer that question.
JM: I absolutely love that response. What’s your favorite part of playing the offensive tackle position?
SB: I just love the nastiness of it. I’ve only been playing on the offensive line for like two and a half years now. I’m still learning it. I enjoy how difficult it is to develop at this position. It’s tough to become a really good offensive lineman.
I just love the toughness that comes with it. I welcomed the challenge from day one. You have to put so much into this to become a really good offensive tackle. I love the offseason stuff that comes with it. I love getting better at my craft. I love slowing things down and putting in extra work.
The process of becoming a really good offensive tackle is incredibly thrilling to me. It takes so much work.
We’re expected to go out there and play against explosive, high-level guys that are better athletes than we are. I enjoy going back and forth and talking s**t with those guys.
That’s my jam. I’m trying to ruffle some feathers out there. These defensive ends are superior athletes and we hold our own against them. There’s nothing better than that.
JM: I couldn’t think of a better way to end this conversation. That’s terrific. I’ve really appreciated your time today, Spencer. In closing, what kind of impact is Spencer Brown going to make at the next level?
SB: I’m going to make a big splash at the next level. If you call me a small school guy, it’s going to bite you. I know that my time is coming. As the years go on, I’m going to develop into a really good player and earn the respect of the guys around the league.