Jon Brown was an elite college soccer player. Now, he’s competing for the starting kicker spot on the Bengals. Brown’s story is unique, to say the least.
The Bengals already have an established kicker in Randy Bullock, but they still brought in competition this year in the form of Jon Brown. Bullock and Brown seem to be in a fair battle, although Bullock’s status as an incumbent definitely helps him. Bullock is a much more traditional NFL kicker, though, even winning a Lou Groza award en route to the NFL. Brown, on the other hand, took a much less conventional path to get to the Bengals.
Although he played football in high school – as a wide receiver – Brown was a soccer star. He even played for the United States U17 team before college. He started by enrolling at the University of Kentucky, but transferred to Louisville after just one season. Brown tried to play both soccer and football, but couldn’t do both for the Cardinals.
Brown decided to drop both and focus on placekicking instead. He took a semester and trained with Brett Baer, a former NFL kicker, to hone his technique. Brown made the Louisville team as a kicker, but was still a backup for his last two seasons.
Still, his pure leg strength and potential upside made him intriguing enough for the Bengals to sign him in 2016. He hasn’t made the final roster in 2016 or 2017, but was a member of the practice squad last season. Clearly, the Bengals still believe in his upside as a kicker.
Heading into 2018, Brown is the only legitimate challenger to Bullock for the starting kicker job. So far, Bullock has been nearly flawless during camp, which will make it tough for Brown to unseat him. However, Brown has been just as good, save for a couple hiccups. Most importantly, Brown has been excellent from distance, making over 80% of his 40+ yard field goals in camp.
In the mock game, Bullock and Brown went toe to toe on kicks. Both went 2/2, with Brown knocking in a 49 yarder, and Bullock hitting a 51 yarder. It will be difficult for the Bengals to part way with either one of these guys, so don’t expect Bullock to get cut. However, Brown should definitely catch on with another team or latch onto the Bengals’ taxi squad again.
No matter what, Brown’s story is already incredible. It would be unreal if it were just his soccer background. However, Brown is also black, which is incredibly rare for an NFL placekicker. If Brown were to make a roster and kick in a game, he would be just the fifth black kicker to do so. Hopefully, his story ends with a roster spot somewhere, either on the Bengals or another team.