Doug Brown will turn 36 years old later this month, but that number has done little to slow him down in the CFL’s trenches.
“He’s the most dominant defensive tackle in the league,” Bombers defensive line coach Richard Harris declared Friday. “I’ll stand on any corner and say that to anybody.”
“… I wish I had seven or eight of him. I’d just put them in different colours and different sizes and let them go.”
That’s not just a case of a good friend and position coach tooting his own player’s horn, either. One rival CFLer whose job it is to know such things said Brown is playing “very good” this season.
The 6-foot-8, 300-pounder is a perennial CFL all-star and a surefire Canadian Football Hall of Famer. The fact he is one of the hardest-working players off the field is likely a big reason why.
As always, Brown does 300 sit-ups, 150 pushups and between two and five 300-yard shuttles nearly every day of the week.
Something happened this year, though, and it was no doubt unsettling for the big man. Brown started to — gasp! — feel his age during the first half of the season. He wasn’t pleased with his play early on, so he did something he had never done before.
He started working out even more.
“I wasn’t happy with the way the season was starting,” Brown said. “I didn’t think I was playing the way I was capable. So I started going to Elite (Performance) in the morning before I got here, which is something I’d never done before during the season. It was just too hard.
“You have to make sacrifices if you want to continue to play at a high level as you get older.”
Brown is on pace to record 42 tackles this season, which would be the fourth-highest output of his 10-year Bomber career. He is lagging in the sack department, with one quarterback drop in 10 games, but he is still causing huge problems for offensive lines.
“Doug Brown has not slowed down when it comes to coming off the ball,” said Harris, a former NFL defensive lineman. “He’s eating up two, sometimes three guys, and when he’s doing that it means the other guys should be free to do something.
“So if he’s doing what he’s doing and the other guys aren’t, then I’m going to be on their butts.”
Those “other guys” have definitely been doing what they’re supposed to do, as Odell Willis and Phil Hunt have been eating up offensive linemen left and right. Harris credits Brown’s continued strong play for contributing to that duo’s dominance.
“Because people are focusing on Doug, it’s leaving (Willis and Hunt) one-on-one against other people,” Harris said. “And I’ll take those guys one-on-one against anybody at any time.”
Brown, who is on the field for 80% to 85% of Winnipeg’s defensive plays, knows his career is not going to last forever. But as he proved this year he is willing to go that extra mile to fight off Father Time a little longer — like getting up at the crack of dawn to put in an extra workout.
“Once you get later in your career, later in your 30s, your body almost wants to give up, and you have to constantly come up with new ways to push yourself harder if you want to maintain a level of play that you’re used to,” said Brown, whose prides himself on standing out in the fourth quarter of games.
“It’s just been a progression. Every year you get older, every year you gotta do some more. You gotta work harder just to keep up with 20-something-year-olds.
“It’s weird. It just goes so fast, because once upon a time you were one of them and now you’re on the other end of the spectrum.”