Josh Brown: Mr. Clutch
Josh Brown kicks off in a game against the Vikings in 2007. Brown earned a reputation for coming through when his team needed it most. Jennifer Buchanan / Herald file photo
From an early age, Josh Brown learned that sports were not only a great outlet, but also a way to stand above the crowd. Brown had more athletic ability than most of his peers as well as a rare gift for delivering in the clutch. His first game-winning moment came at the age of 12, when he nailed a buzzer-beating, three-point shot on the basketball court while playing for a team called the Whitney Bears. He hit similar game-winners on the soccer field and the baseball diamond and delivered in the clutch again while he won back-to-back state titles in the high jump. But Josh Brown's ability to thrive under pressure became most apparent on the football field, where he earned an appropriate nickname. The man who would be dubbed Mr. Clutch has proven to have a golden leg at crunch time.
Before he became an NFL kicker, Josh Brown spent a good part of his childhood juggling. The sports nut played football, baseball, basketball, soccer and track throughout his youth in Tulsa, Okla. Not until his family moved from the city to tiny Foyil, Okla., did Brown feel like it was time to make a decision. As a new kid in town of just 120 residents, Brown figured he'd gain more popularity with his peers by choosing football over his first love, soccer. He became the star of the football team, playing running back and safety while also returning kickoffs and punts. And, oh, he also kicked a few extra points and an occasional field goal for the Foyil High Panthers, including a 61-yarder in a playoff game.
Josh Brown and holder Ryan Plackemeirer watch as Brown's 46-yard field goal sails through the uprights in 2007. Herald file photo
Josh Brown waves to fans as he walks off the field with the game ball after a 36-yard field goal in overtime to beat the Giants in 2005. Jennifer Buchanan / Herald file photo
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That game was everything that the NFL experience represents. It was an exciting and hard-fought game. We had won two games in a row after losing to the Redskins, and the season was starting to look pretty good. But the Dallas game was really what started a trend of winning in the fourth quarter that year. We had lost two games, and we were kind of middle-of-the-road. And in years past, those were the kind of games we had lost. That was just a major turn of events. We battled until the end of the game. It was a horrible weather game. We were playing in a lot of rain, which, believe it or not, was pretty rare at Qwest Field during those years. The weather was a factor early on, when neither offense was doing much of anything. The Cowboys scored in the first quarter, while we couldn't get anything going until the final drive of the first half. Just before halftime, getting a chance to kick a 55-yard field goal -- and making it -- kind of rekindled a little fire for me. It gave our team the momentum coming out of halftime. It was just one of those moments where you could almost see things changing in the locker room. You could see attitudes adjusting. We knew something was going on; we weren't backing off. And we battled the rest of that game.
We kept fighting and fighting, even though we weren't getting the points to show for it. When Dallas kicker Jose Cortez hit a field goal with two minutes left, we fell behind 10-3 and needed a big drive. We went 81 yards in six plays, finally getting into the end zone on a Matt Hasselbeck-to-Ryan Hannam touchdown pass with 40 seconds left. My extra point tied the score, and it looked like we were headed to overtime. But the Cowboys weren't going to settle for a tie at the end of regulation. They decided to keep throwing the ball, and when Drew Bledsoe threw an ill-advised pass in the closing seconds, we made the kind of play that can turn a season around. Rookie defensive back Jordan Babineaux, whom we had started calling "Big Play Babs" because of plays like the fumble he caused in the final minute of a win over St. Louis two weeks earlier, intercepted the pass and took off up the sideline. He ran it back to the Dallas 32-yard and got out of bounds with five seconds left in regulation. The only problem was that I wasn't ready. I was over there on the sidelines, preparing for a possible game-winner five minutes later – in overtime. I wasn't preparing for right then. I thought, OK, Dallas is going to keep driving; they've been driving all day. I thought the Cowboys would keep giving it to running back Julius Jones, who had been running right at us all day. I was just doing what I always did in college: pacing and being by myself so my mind and my nerves could settle. All of a sudden, I hear this uproar of fans, and I see Babs go running by, and I'm like: OK, what just happened? The whole moment came, and it wasn't stopping for anybody. We didn't have any timeouts, so we had 40 seconds to get out there before the play clock expired. When Babs picked that ball off, it was just one of those moments. A veteran quarterback makes a major mistake, throws the ball where he shouldn't, and we've got a rookie guy who was undrafted picking the ball off and going just far enough. He gets just to where he needs to get and then gets out of bounds at the 32-yard line. My mind was a blank. I didn't know where my helmet was. The big play came at a point when we weren't ready. My helmet's down at one end of the field; I'm way down on the other. I was running around on the sideline trying to find my helmet, while Tom Rouen, my holder, and J.P. Darche, the long snapper, were running out there. Our special teams coach, Bob Casullo, was telling everyone to stay calm. At the same time, I'm bypassing the huddle of special teams guys. I'm like, 'Everybody stay away from me; leave me alone.' And, of course, I found my helmet. I go out there, and Tom Rouen goes out there, and he's like, 'OK, let's do it, man.' I was like, 'All right.' We had these little smiles on our faces. We didn't have time to think about anything. We just kind of backed up, and it was over like that. It was one of those kicks where, after 15 yards, you knew it was good. And I lost my helmet again – this time because I threw it in the air in celebration. The helmet goes flying off, game's over, and there's this overwhelming energy in the stands. This side of the field is going wild, and the other side just goes deflated. It was just a major triumph for this team because we had made it through such a battle.
Seahawks kicker Josh Brown and holder Tom Rouen watch as Brown's game-winning kick sails through the uprights as time expires. Jennifer Buchanan / Herald file photo
I threw my helmet after I made the kick, and everyone made a big deal about that. Coach Mike Holmgren came up to me the next day. We have a good relationship, so he's never approached me in a negative way. He's like, 'What were you thinking?' I told him that the moment got a hold of me and I got excited and threw my helmet. And plus, I had kicked a game-winner in college and got crushed by my teammates. The guys at Nebraska all thought it was funny at the time, but it was nothing I wanted to go through again. I just wanted to stand up and celebrate and whatever, just hang out. So I took my helmet off. And Coach Holmgren said: 'Next time, leave your helmet on.' We were fortunate enough to get another chance or two, and I didn't throw my helmet the next time. People were asking me afterward if I thought that made up for the Redskins game or anything, and I was like, 'You know, that never came into my mind.' I just wanted to forget about it, and I had. Only in interviews did it ever come up. I had four friends from college in town that weekend. Coincidentally, every big kick I had, there's always been somebody in town. We had a house full. They were there for my 58-yarder my rookie year, they were there for the game-winners against St. Louis – both there and in Seattle – in 2006. They were there for my game-winner against Denver in 2006. That's just the way it goes. I always go to the Metropolitan Grill in downtown Seattle after games, but we toasted up the town that night. We celebrated. For the team, there was a realization of what it takes to win a game at the end. I think that was the major lesson learned. I'm sure we've all done it in college and whatnot, but to understand that team and the chemistry it carried, we learned a lot that day. If you look at what happened to us the rest of that season, we continuously played until the end of every game. Even later on when we played the Redskins again in the playoffs, and when we played Carolina in the NFC Championship game, those were games where we never stopped working people.
Josh Brown jumps into the air after hitting the game winning field goal at the end of the game against the Cowboys in 2005. Jennifer Buchanan / Herald file photo
The victory over Dallas marked the third in what would become an 11-game winning streak. Brown hit another game-winner during that streak, nailing a 36-yarder in overtime after New York Giants kicker Jay Feely had missed three potential winning kicks in the same game. While Feely and plenty of other NFL kickers have folded in crucial situations, Brown made a living off delivering in the clutch. He matched a league record with four game-winners in a single season in 2006, and the man who would be dubbed Mr. Clutch kept on thriving when it counted. "To me, he's probably the best kicker in the league," teammate Mack Strong said in 2006. "He's definitely one of the best clutch kickers. You hear about Adam Vinatieri, and rightly so because of his clutch kicking in the Super Bowls. But Josh Brown has quietly built that kind of reputation for bailing us out. If it's close at the end, he gives us a shot to win the football game." Another teammate, receiver/return man Nate Burleson, compared Brown's late heroics to those of basketball legend Michael Jordan. "Every blue moon, Michael Jordan would miss the shot," Burleson said, "but more often than not, the game's over when you give the ball to Mike."
Josh Brown gets congratulations from teammates after nailing another field goal in 2007. Jennifer Buchanan / Herald file photo
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