After 55 games as a Dallas Cowboy, Noah Brown finally has a souvenir to take home. A late-round draft pick in 2017, the New Jersey native has been buried on the team’s depth chart for most of his pro career, contributing heavily on special teams but remaining mostly anonymous to the casual fan.
But after extending the Cowboys’ opening possession with a clutch 17-yard pickup on an early 4th-and-2 and then capping off the drive with his first career touchdown, the 26-year-old says the ball he caught in the end zone from backup passer Cooper Rush will serve as a treasured memento.
“I’ve got to keep that one,” Brown told reporters following the Week 2 win; his leaping score set the tone for a largely-dismissed Dallas squad to pull off a 20-17 upset over last year’s AFC champs.
On Sunday, Brown literally caught everything that came his way, snagging five receptions on five targets and ending the day with a career-best 91 receiving yards and led to that long-awaited touchdown.
The @dallascowboys have their first touchdown of 2022!
Cooper Rush to Noah Brown!
— FOX Sports: NFL (@NFLonFOX) September 18, 2022
Rush-to-Brown isn’t the connection anyone would have guessed to put up the Cowboys’ first touchdown of the season. But just as the Week 1 injury to Dak Prescott opened the door for Rush to make a name for himself over the next few weeks, having Michael Gallup and James Washington in the rehab room for training camp and the preseason has given Brown a chance to show the rest of the world what those within the organization have always know he can do.
“He’s a baller. We’ve been together since we were rookies,” Rush explained Sunday evening in his postgame remarks. “He just keeps getting better and better every year. He earned that starting spot, and you guys got to see tonight why. All he does is make tough catches, always in the right place at the right time… He’s a heck of a player.”
“Noah’s a stud. He’s so competitive,” head coach Mike McCarthy added. “Just the offseason he had, obviously the anticipation of the opportunity that he was going to have this year. Now you’re just seeing the payoff of it.”
Brown has always made the most of limited opportunities, dating back to his time at Ohio State. As just a redshirt sophomore, he started all 13 games for the Buckeyes and hauled in four touchdown grabs in one memorable game against Oklahoma. That single season was enough to convince Brown to skip his final two years of college eligibility and declare for the NFL draft.
The Cowboys took him in the seventh round, mainly after running back Ezekiel Elliott lobbied the front office to draft him. But Brown has sometimes struggled to get on the field, as an always-crowded WR room in Dallas has had to compete for complementary roles behind A-listers like Dez Bryant, Amari Cooper, and now CeeDee Lamb.
After missing a big chunk of 2018 and all of 2019 with injuries, Brown has finally had his breakout moment.
“It’s extremely satisfying,” Brown told media members Sunday. “This organization has put a lot of trust in me for a long time. To come out here on a big stage, in a big moment, and make the play, I was happy to be able to do that for my guys.”
After his performance Sunday, Brown may even continue a Dallas tradition of obscure receivers rising to prominence and vying for more playing time. At one point, Cedrick Wilson, Cole Beasley, Patrick Crayton, Terrance Williams, even Kelvin Martin were unknowns, too.
“Well, I like those- quote- no-name receivers to step up and be the difference,” team owner Jerry Jones said after the Week 2 win. “Give him a chance. He got out there and got some more snaps under his belt.”
In fact, Brown was on the field for 85% of the Cowboys’ offensive snaps versus Cincinnati, far surpassing fellow receivers Dennis Houston (34%), Simi Fehoko (10%), and KaVontae Turpin (8%).
He maintained a presence on special teams as well, the spot where he first earned the trust of his Cowboys coaches.
“It’s great,” Brown said of his increased usage on offense, “but I was out there doing the dirty work today, too. I always take pride in that, take pride in getting open, take pride in blocking, whatever I’ve got to do.”
That’s the thing that stands out most to McCarthy about Brown.
“Tough, tough football player, both on offense and special teams,” the coach offered. “Love the way he plays. How many receivers are your personal protector on punt team? One tough dude.”
But on Sunday, Brown was more than just a special teams contributor. With Gallup to return soon and Washington to follow, he hopes all the years spent with Rush in practice- and how it manifested itself on the field in a huge Week 2 win- translates to more pass-catching opportunities on Sundays.
“It’s huge. It’s just a testament to all the work we put in in the facility,” said Brown. “Not a lot of people get to see Cooper or me in the past, really, but the work showed today. I’m proud of that.”
He’s pretty proud of that touchdown ball, too. Even thought he admits he doesn’t have a place at home ready for it.
“Not yet. I’ll find one.”