PITTSBURGH — Four straight seasons with at least 100 catches has vaulted Antonio Brown onto the top shelf of NFL players. Watching him work a camp for two hours reminds you why he’s remained one of the league’s most popular.
Brown’s “Live Your Vision” ProCamp over the weekend in Pittsburgh showcased him at his most versatile, far removed from the Facebook Live incident nearly eight months ago. When he wasn’t throwing passes to 10-year-olds, he was getting tackled by them.
A rain-soaked afternoon was not a deterrent for Brown, who took dozens of pictures, signed autographs and complimented kids on their hairstyles as the camp supervisor tried to usher Brown out of the downpour and into the gym.
Yes, corralling Brown can be problematic. No time for itineraries. He’s busy personalizing. Stop, talk, smile for cameras … every fifth step. This is exactly what those in attendance want.
And if the camera’s not out, Brown will tell you to get it out because he’s ready to make a moment. He caught a few moms off guard with that one.
Cheese 😁 pic.twitter.com/HivCpeQf9K
— Antonio Brown (@AB84) July 23, 2017
“Everything I do, they remember,” said Brown, 29, of his mentality with his young fans. “From jumping on the goal post to doing a flip or pushing the ball over the end zone, it means a lot to the kids. Being an inspiration for them, a motivation for them, just to have a moment here so they can touch him and feel him, that’s what life’s all about.”
In a pair of gray Gucci cleats, Brown started the day throwing passes in 7-man drills. If the first pass fell incomplete, he’d ignite the no-huddle offense. After each play, he made sure to pat the backs of each teammate.
In the gym, three select campers got to challenge Brown one-on-one. Brown, who had changed into red Gucci slippers, played defense twice and let the receivers through for an easy score.
When the third camper wanted to play defense, Brown hit him with a stutter-step for an easy grab, no mercy. For good measure, Brown collapsed to the ground and cued dozens of campers to pile on top of him. The emcee warned the campers that Brown couldn’t show up to training camp injured.
Minutes later, Brown told a group of kids they should re-enact a baseball team winning the World Series. He wanted another pile-up.
Brown gave everything he had save the “dope [expletive] watch” that a fan called the gleam from his right wrist. Brown says he’ll even follow campers’ Snapchat accounts upon request. Brown chronicles his daily routine through multiple Snapchat videos per day.
“Stay connected,” Brown said. “Kids need that role model, that person they can look up to. For me to be that and share that moment, it’s not only special for them, it’s special for me.”
With the Steelers reporting to camp Thursday, Brown is his own experience in Latrobe. Sunday at Bethel Park High was the ultimate preview.
Brown’s work ethic on the field, coupled with his high-wattage personality off it, are strong enough components to offset the distractions from late last season.