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Editor’s Note: This story was originally published on September 1. January 2, 2020. The Tennessee Titans travel to face the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday (4:25 PM ET, CBS).
nashville, tennessee. – at age 20, dk metcalf lay in a hospital bed, facing the end of his college career.
Reading: Aj brown and dk metcalf
The redshirted sophomore wide receiver suffered a neck injury in October 2018 that required season-ending surgery. His family surrounded him, along with Ole Miss coach Matt Luke, position coach Jacob Peeler and receiver A.J. brown.
“When they told us he was hurt and out for a year, I went to the hospital with him and just collapsed,” Brown said. “I felt like he happened to me. Man, he definitely brought us closer. We were already close, but after that, he went to a whole other level.”
added metcalf, “I looked at him and he was crying. To put him in my shoes and feel my emotion at that moment, you couldn’t have asked for anything better.”
Once high school rivals, Brown and Metcalf grew from college teammates to be like brothers. The two have pushed each other from their high school days all the way to the NFL, where, as rookies in 2019, Brown with the Titans and Metcalf with the Seahawks settled. Brown led the Titans in receiving, and Metcalf only trailed Tyler Lockett in the Seahawks.
and they’re not done pushing each other to new heights.
But that’s a long way from where their relationship started.
the ‘not very fond’ rivalry
During their high school days, Brown (of Starkville) and Metcalf (of Oxford) competed for top receiver honors at Mississippi. the two featured met three times, with brown’s team winning two out of three.
“Both came from rival high schools,” Peeler said. “They played each other and were always compared to each other in high school. Social media created this rivalry.”
The constant comparisons started to make it personal. “We didn’t like each other very much at the time,” Brown said.
The two then joined forces at the all-star game of mississippi vs. alabama in 2015. they had two touchdowns each and were named co-mvps.
metcalf committed to mississippi while brown weighed offers; including an intense effort from jalen it hurts to go to alabama.
shortly after the all-star game, brown received a text message from metcalf that included an invitation:
Hello, brother. You might as well go ahead and join me on ole miss.
“We talked about the wrs that were there,” said brown. “laquon treadwell was about to come out. and really, ole miss had been pumping some really good receivers. we knew we had a good chance to make an early impact.”
we could be teammates next year… mhmm🤔 who knows 😼😂 pic.twitter.com/tjbzeiczbb
if it weren’t for the mississippi vs. Alabama, Brown may not have ended up at Ole Miss. But he saw how dangerous he and Metcalf could be together.
peeler added, “it all started when those two put their egos aside and decided to do it together. it was like this powerful team was created.”
Their time as college teammates was the start of something big.
“Once we got to ole miss, it was all over,” said brown. “it was all she wrote. when we got there we wanted to make each other better and we just connected. we didn’t look back.”
brown and metcalf lived together for two years at ole miss.
“We always talk about being on a three-year plan,” Brown said of his plan to go from college to the NFL. “Movie Fridays” began, where they watched professional receivers instead of going out.
peeler had a cut bench of nfl wide receivers that he shared with his players.
“They were addicted to movies, always in the office looking for these wormholes to see clippings and videos,” Peeler said with a smile.
that’s what led to brown and metcalf’s shirtless tweet going viral.
“It was AJ’s idea,” Metcalf said. “I don’t like taking photos of myself shirtless. It’s really not me. I thought it was just a normal photo. I didn’t know people would freak out like that.”
metcalf had another shirtless moment before meeting seahawks coach pete carroll for the first time at the nfl combine. but carroll joined him and took off his shirt too.
There was a murmur around metcalf and brown. then they both wanted to be first-round players.
dk metcalf arrived at his pre-draft interview with seattle shirtless after a scout talked him into it. pete carroll was shocked so he took his off too 😂 (via @seahawks) pic.twitter.com/7dwbavqghs
both players were impressed at the combine, brown excelled in field drills while metcalf posted a time of 4.33 seconds in the 40 yard dash. they had done enough to justify first-round picks, at least they thought they had.
None were chosen on day 1, and not hearing their names was devastating. Brown said he went to his closet and cried as he called Metcalf, who came out into the hotel hallway to take the call. as they talked about being ignored, his mission became clear.
“We know who we are and what we’re about to do,” Metcalf (selected 64th overall) told Brown. “When they let us in, that’s where they screwed up.”
“I was pissed off,” said brown, who was smitten with the no. 51. “I was supposed to be chosen. I knew I was about to prove the titans right. I really had a big chip on my shoulder, and I still do.”
That chip still exists for both Brown and Metcalf, who want to take their games to the next level this season. but their careers are off to a good start.
As a rookie, Brown had 52 catches for 1,051 yards (20.2-yard average) and eight touchdowns during the regular season; Metcalf had 58 catches for 900 yards (15.5-yard average) and seven touchdowns.
according to statistics from espn & Research Insights, Brown’s five 100-yard receiving games in 2019 were tied for third (Odell Beckham Jr. and Justin Jefferson had seven as rookies) by any rookie in the Super Bowl era. Metcalf recorded 160 receiving yards against the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2019 playoffs, the most ever by a rookie, according to data from the elias athletic office.
Throughout their rookie seasons, Brown and Metcalf spoke every week, providing scouting reports on defensive backs and updates on opponents.
“Whenever we play someone that one of us has already played, we always ask how he’s doing, is he really as good as they say he is,” Brown said.
The first time the Titans faced the Jacksonville Jaguars was a revelation for Brown. he finished with a catch for 4 yards. Brown rebounded with four receptions for 135 yards and a touchdown the next time he faced them. But he couldn’t face Jalen Ramsey a second time because Ramsey had been traded to the Rams.
“jalen ramsey and a.j. bouye, that was probably the worst game of my career. i was questioning myself a lot. i was wet; i couldn’t start or stop; and this guy was everywhere. when we played them [the jaguars] again, I was ready for a.j.; I wish I could have had jalen again,” Brown said.
ramsey was the first player metcalf mentioned when asked about the defensive backs he and brown discussed. Metcalf faced Ramsey in December 2019 after he switched to cornerback. Metcalf had six receptions for 78 yards.
many of brown and metcalf’s conversations in 2019 included words of encouragement, especially when the titans lost four of five games earlier in the season.
“They were going through a rough patch,” Metcalf said, “and [Brown] was wondering if they were going to make the playoffs. I said, ‘You’re going to make it. Ball out.’ It was like, after that conversation, they went on a winning streak.”
Now entering their third season, the two receivers are looking to get back into the playoffs and make even deeper careers with their respective teams. they will keep pushing each other, just like siblings do.
“you can tell they know each other to the point where they’re like brothers,” hill said. “it’s on a deeper level.”