‘Super cool moment’: Vicksburg native Ben Brown takes winding road to NFL debut with Seahawks

Published 9:25 pm Monday, September 25, 2023

Sunday afternoon, with several family members in attendance and a sellout crowd at Lumen Field steadily amping up, Ben Brown took a moment to enjoy the scene.

The football journey that had taken him from Vicksburg to Oxford to Cincinnati, finally culminated in Seattle when he played in his first regular-season NFL game. The backup offensive lineman played 15 snaps — eight on offense and seven on special teams — as he helped the Seattle Seahawks beat the Carolina Panthers 37-27.

“That was the first time I had actually worn the (Seahawks) jersey and pants. I didn’t play there in the preseason, I played in Cincinnati,” Brown said. “That was a little bit surreal, coming out and warming up, getting my mind right in case I had my shot. It was really special. I’m glad I had some people there to watch me. Super, super cool moment.”

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Brown’s path to the NFL wasn’t all that unusual, but the one he took to Sunday’s game was.

After starring at St. Aloysius High School in Vicksburg, Brown signed with Ole Miss and immediately became a fixture on its offensive line. He started 40 consecutive games at guard and center from 2018-21. The streak ended when, late in a win over Tennessee in October 2021, he tore a tendon in his biceps.

The injury contributed to Brown not being selected in the 2022 NFL draft, but he still was able to sign a free agent contract with the Cincinnati Bengals. He was getting buzz as a rising prospect during offseason practices and training camp, but tore the same biceps tendon in the team’s first preseason game.

“I played the whole second half and I think it happened probably five minutes into the game. I think I was so laser-focused on the game that when it happened, I felt my arm pop and was like, ‘Surely that didn’t just happen,’” Brown said. “Then after the game when the adrenaline started going away and I started feeling how my arm felt, I was like, ‘OK, that’s not good.’”

It was a devastating setback for Brown, but wound up having a silver lining. The Bengals put him on injured reserve, which allowed him to remain with the team throughout the 2022 season. Although he couldn’t play, Brown was able to rehab his injury at the Bengals’ facilities and attend team meetings. It served as an intensive training course in a lot of important aspects of NFL life.

“I was very thankful to Cincinnati for letting me be a part of the team that season, letting me do my rehab there, and keeping me on,” Brown said. “Getting to learn the ins and outs of a season, and how to prepare watching film and breaking down moves and individual tendencies of guys. I really learned a lot about the league that year, and how to prepare as an NFL offensive lineman during the week. It was very beneficial to me.”

Brown was healthy in time for the 2023 offseason and ready for another go at making the Bengals’ opening day roster. He played in all three preseason games but, unfortunately, was released when the team cut its roster from 90 to 53 players at the end of training camp in August.

It was a low point, but it passed quickly. Two days after the Bengals cut him, the Seahawks signed Brown to their practice squad. A few days after that, they promoted him to the 53-man active roster ahead of the season opener against the Los Angeles Rams.

“It was pretty crazy. In all the uncertainty, just trusting God’s plan for me was the biggest thing,” Brown said. “There are so many questions about my future and where I was going to play. I knew I was good enough to play. It was where I was going to go. Seattle felt like it was a great opportunity to grow as a player.”

While there are 53 players on each NFL team’s active roster, only 46 are allowed to be in uniform for games on Sunday. For the Seahawks’ first two games, against the Rams and Detroit Lions, Brown was among the inactives on game day.

Finally, on Sunday, he got the good news he’d been waiting for.

“The O-line coach told me the day of the game, ‘You may not be active. I’ll let you know.’ Then five minutes later he said, ‘You’re still active.’ It was like all right, let’s go,” Brown said with a laugh.

Brown was listed as the backup left guard for Sunday’s game against Carolina, behind longtime starter Damien Lewis. It’s a position that requires a player to be ready on a moment’s notice.

“Everything happens so fast, and if you’re one of those backup linemen on game day — there’s only three backup linemen — if one of those (starters) goes down, even if it’s only for a handful of plays, you’re on the sideline the whole time helmet in hand waiting for something to happen,” Brown said. “I was prepared for when my number was called.”

That happened early in the second quarter, when Lewis had to leave the game with a minor injury. The Seahawks were driving toward the end zone and Brown was suddenly thrust into the lineup. His first NFL play, Brown said, was one he barely remembers.

“I honestly can’t remember because it happened so fast,” he said with a laugh. “We were in the middle of a really long drive and Damien Lewis went down when we were in the red zone. I just ran out there immediately and I’m just trying to hear the play.”

Brown remained on the field for the rest of that drive and most of the next one. Both resulted in field goals for the Seahawks as they took a 9-3 lead midway through the second quarter.

Brown continued to play on the field goal unit throughout the game. The Seahawks kicked five field goals and two PATs.

Having already played a few preseason games over the span of two years, Brown said he didn’t have any nervousness about rushing into the lineup.

“It wasn’t like it was my first NFL game ever. I’d put the work in. It felt like practice being out there,” he said. “Nothing was really a surprise when I was out there. I just wanted to execute and help our offense keep rolling. Not a whole lot different, just in front of a whole lot more people.”

Brown is hopeful that Sunday’s game was the first of many with the Seahawks, and in a long NFL career. Being on the 53-man roster means his spot on the team is secure for now, but whether or not he’ll be active each week will depend on injuries and other roster needs.

Seattle has dealt with a wave of early-season injuries along its offensive line, and Brown’s ability to play either guard position or center is a major asset at the moment. After Lewis returned to the game, Brown said, he was nearly thrown in at right guard when the starter at that position Anthony Bradford got nicked up.

“That was a big selling point for me coming here, that I could play any of the three inside spots,” Brown said. “I’ve only been at left guard the last three weeks in practice, but (offensive line coach Andy Dickerson) asked me if I was going to be ready at right guard. I told him I played right guard all in college, some at Cincinnati too, I’m ready to roll.”

And, Brown added, he’ll be ready to roll whenever the Seahawks call his number again. Their next game is Oct. 3, on Monday Night Football against the New York Giants.

“I’m just going to prepare every week like I do every single week while I’ve been in the NFL — like I’m playing. I have to be ready in case my number is called, just like I was yesterday,” Brown said. “Trust in God’s plan in life. Even though it might be unclear at times like it was unclear for me, ultimately God’s plan for your life is not your own plan. I’m so thankful and so blessed to be here.”

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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