NASHVILLE, Tenn. — At 20 years outdated, DK Metcalf lay in a hospital mattress, going through the tip of his school profession.
The redshirt sophomore large receiver suffered a neck harm in October 2018 that required season-ending surgical procedure. His household surrounded him, together with Ole Miss coach Matt Luke, place coach Jacob Peeler and fellow receiver A.J. Brown.
“Once they informed us he was damage and out for the yr, I went to the hospital with him and it simply crumbled me,” Brown mentioned. “I felt prefer it occurred to me. Man, it positively introduced us nearer. We have been already shut, however after that, it simply went to a complete totally different stage.”
Added Metcalf, “I seemed over and he was crying. For him to place himself in my sneakers and really feel my emotion at the moment, you could not have requested for something higher.”
As soon as highschool rivals, Brown and Metcalf grew as school teammates to be like brothers. The 2 have pushed one another since their highschool days all the best way to the NFL, the place — as rookies in 2019, Brown with the Tennessee Titans and Metcalf with the Seattle Seahawks — they established themselves. Brown led the Titans in receiving, and Metcalf trailed solely Tyler Lockett on the Seahawks.
They usually aren’t performed pushing one another to achieve new heights.
However that is a far cry from the place their relationship began.
The ‘not too fond’ rivalry
Throughout their highschool days, Brown (from Starkville) and Metcalf (from Oxford) jockeyed for top-receiver honors in Mississippi. The 2 standouts confronted one another thrice, with Brown’s staff successful two of three.
“They each got here out from rival excessive colleges,” Peeler mentioned. “They performed one another and have been at all times in contrast to one another in highschool. Social media sort of created this rivalry.”
The fixed comparisons began to make it private. “We weren’t too keen on one another on the time,” Brown mentioned.
Tight finish Greg Olsen says Seahawks rookie DK Metcalf has the potential to be the most effective large receivers within the league.
Then the 2 joined forces within the 2015 Mississippi vs. Alabama All-Star sport. They hauled in two touchdowns apiece and have been named co-MVPs.
Metcalf was dedicated to Mississippi whereas Brown was mulling provides; together with an intense effort by Jalen Hurts to get him to go to Alabama.
Shortly after the all-star sport, Brown obtained a textual content from Metcalf that included an invite:
Hey, bruh. You may as properly simply go forward and be part of me at Ole Miss.
“We talked concerning the WRs that have been there,” Brown mentioned. “Laquon Treadwell was about to come back out. And actually, Ole Miss had been pumping out some actually good receivers. We knew we had a superb probability of constructing an impression early.”
May we be teammates subsequent yr …mhmm🤔 who is aware of 😼😂 pic.twitter.com/TJbzEicZBB
— AJ Brown (@Brown1arthur) December 10, 2015
If it weren’t for the Mississippi vs. Alabama All-Star sport, Brown may not have ended up at Ole Miss. However he noticed how harmful he and Metcalf could possibly be collectively.
Added Peeler, “It began when these two put their egos apart and determined to go do it collectively. It was sort of like this energy staff was created.”
Their time as school teammates was the beginning of one thing large.
“As soon as we bought to Ole Miss, it was throughout,” Brown mentioned. “It was all she wrote. After we bought there, we wished to make one another higher and simply linked up. We did not look again.”
Brown and Metcalf lived collectively for 2 years at Ole Miss.
“We at all times talked about being on a three-year plan,” Brown mentioned of their plan to go from school to the NFL. They began “Movie Fridays,” the place they’d watch professional receivers as a substitute of going out.
Peeler had a financial institution of cutups that includes NFL large receivers that he shared along with his gamers.
“They have been movie junkies, at all times within the workplace taking place these wormholes of watching cutups and movies,” Peeler mentioned with amusing.
Though DK Metcalf’s 2018 season was minimize brief as a result of harm, he nonetheless had 569 yards and 5 TDs whereas A.J. Brown had his greatest season with 1,320 yards and 6 TDs. AP Picture/Rogelio V. Solis
Brown favored to look at Julio Jones (which is without doubt one of the causes he wears No. 11) however he additionally favored to check Antonio Brown and Odell Beckham Jr.
Metcalf had his eyes on two receivers recognized for his or her wonderful talents.
“Randy Moss was the man for me,” Metcalf mentioned, “how he simply assaults the ball when he is double-covered however the QB would nonetheless belief him to throw the ball up. That is a canine. And Calvin [Johnson], he is simply, like, other-world. That is what I’m attempting to be.”
Brown and Metcalf pushed one another in numerous methods. The 2 balanced one another as a result of they introduced totally different strengths to the desk.
“I used to be the weight-room man,” Metcalf mentioned. “He was the soccer man. Something that I discovered on the sector, it was from watching A.J., being round him doing drills.”
Added Brown: “DK actually pushed me, man. The whole lot comes simple to him. Operating, lifting weights, every part. He does it effortlessly. With him being round me, it raised my stage of play as a result of we at all times competed and labored out collectively, attempting to uplift one another.”
DK Metcalf reveals off his “NWO” tattoo (Nasty WideOuts). A.J. Brown has a NWO tattoo as properly. Picture courtesy of A.J. Brown
Peeler loved teaching Brown and Metcalf due to their willingness to compete and want to be nice.
“There wasn’t loads of poking and prodding that went into teaching these guys. They pushed one another on daily basis,” Peeler mentioned. “I do not suppose they may have performed that with out one another.”
Peeler had a nickname for Brown, Metcalf and fellow receiver DaMarkus Lodge (now with the Bengals): Nasty wideouts. Brown and Metcalf favored that a lot they every bought an NWO tattoo.
Balancing one another out prolonged past their exercises, reaching soccer fields on sport days. Defenses needed to choose their poison defending Ole Miss’ wideouts. Peeler pointed to Brown’s skill to get yards after the catch throughout the center and Metcalf’s menace to take the highest off of defenses.
Metcalf showcased his vertical expertise within the first seven video games of the 2018 season when he averaged 21.9 yards per reception. Issues got here to a screeching halt when he suffered the neck harm. However Metcalf by no means wavered. He knew the following time he placed on a uniform, he was going to be an expert.
As soon as it was decided that Metcalf’s season was performed. Brown reeled off 4 straight video games with greater than 100 receiving yards. It was the tip of 12 months 3, and each gamers set their sights on the NFL.
Draft prep and a viral tweet
To organize for the mix, Metcalf went to EXOS in Arizona in early December 2018 to rehab from the neck surgical procedure; Brown joined him a number of weeks later. The 2 continued to push one another on the sector and within the weight room.
“It was good to have them policing one another,” coach Nic Hill mentioned. “I by no means needed to fear about ensuring they have been placing every part on the market as a result of they have been competing with one another. It is an ideal steadiness between the 2.”
Hill noticed Metcalf was the jokester of the 2 whereas Brown locked in. Metcalf admittedly “performs round manner an excessive amount of” and might “get goofy at instances” however says Brown is “straight enterprise once we step in between the strains.”
Throughout weight-room classes, the trainers at EXOS prepped the prospects for the 225-pound bench press check by doing bodybuilder pump-up exercises. They felt the outcomes and wished to point out them off.
This about to larger than Odell and Jarvis Landry after they entered the draft . Two potential 1st spherical draft picks from the identical college. @nfl I hope you are prepared . @olemissfb @exossports pic.twitter.com/UBEJDjZBNy
— AJ Brown (@Brown1arthur) February 21, 2019
That is what led to the shirtless tweet of Brown and Metcalf that went viral.
“It was A.J.’s concept,” Metcalf mentioned. “I do not like taking footage with my shirt off. That is actually not me. I believed it was only a common image. I did not know individuals have been going to freak out like that.”
Metcalf had one other shirtless second earlier than assembly Seahawks coach Pete Carroll for the primary time on the NFL mix. However Carroll joined in with him and took his shirt off, too.
There was a buzz round Metcalf and Brown. Subsequent, the 2 wished to be first-rounders.
DK Metcalf got here into his pre-draft interview with Seattle along with his shirt off after a scout talked him into it.
Pete Carroll was shocked so he took his off too 😂
(by way of @Seahawks) pic.twitter.com/7dwBavQGhS
— ESPN (@espn) April 27, 2019
Each gamers impressed on the mix, with Brown exhibiting off within the subject drills whereas Metcalf blazed a 4.33 second time within the 40-yard sprint. That they had performed sufficient to warrant first-round choices — at the very least they thought that they had.
Neither was picked on Day 1, and never listening to their names referred to as was devastating. Brown mentioned he went into his closet and cried as he referred to as Metcalf, who stepped out to the hallway on the lodge to take the decision. As they talked about being neglected, their mission turned clear.
“We all know who we’re and what we about to do,” Metcalf (drafted 64th general) informed Brown. “Once they allow us to in, that is the place they F’d up.”
“I used to be pissed off,” mentioned Brown, who was taken at No. 51. “I used to be speculated to have been picked. I knew I used to be about to show the Titans proper. I actually had a giant chip on my shoulder, and I nonetheless have it.”
That chip nonetheless exists for each Brown and Metcalf, who wish to take their video games to the following stage this season. However their careers are off to a powerful begin.
As rookies, Brown had 52 catches for 1,051 yards (20.2-yard common) and eight touchdowns throughout the common season; Metcalf had 58 catches for 900 yards (15.5-yard common) and 7 touchdowns.
Each DK Metcalf (58 catches, 900 yards, 7 TDs) and A.J. Brown (52/1,05/8) shined as rookie receivers in 2019. Courtesy of A.J. Brown
In accordance with ESPN Stats & Data analysis, Brown’s 5 100-yard receiving video games final season tied for the second most (Odell Beckham Jr. had seven in 2014) by any rookie within the Tremendous Bowl period. Metcalf posted 160 receiving yards in opposition to the Philadelphia Eagles within the playoffs final season, essentially the most ever by a rookie, in line with Elias Sports activities Bureau knowledge.
All through the season, Brown and Metcalf talked each week, giving scouting studies on defensive backs and updates on opponents.
“Every time we performed any person that considered one of us already performed, we at all times requested how is he, is he actually that good as they are saying he’s,” Brown mentioned.
The primary time the Titans confronted the Jacksonville Jaguars was an eye-opener for Brown. He completed with one catch for Four yards. Brown rebounded with 4 receptions for 135 yards and a landing the following time he confronted them. However he did not get to face Jalen Ramsey a second time as a result of Ramsey had been traded to the Rams.
“Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye, that was most likely the worst sport of my profession. I used to be questioning myself a lot. It was moist; I could not begin and cease; and this dude was in all places. After we performed them [the Jaguars] once more, I used to be prepared for A.J.; I want I might have gotten Jalen once more,” Brown mentioned.
Ramsey was the primary participant Metcalf talked about when requested about defensive backs he and Brown mentioned. Metcalf confronted Ramsey in December after the cornerback was traded. Metcalf had six receptions for 78 yards.
A lot of Brown and Metcalf’s conversations final season included phrases of encouragement — particularly when the Titans misplaced 4 out of 5 video games early within the season.
“They have been going by a tough patch,” Metcalf mentioned, “and [Brown] was questioning in the event that they’d make the playoffs. I informed him, ‘You are going to make it. Simply proceed to do you and ball out.’ It was like, after that dialog they went on a successful streak.”
Now coming into 12 months 2, the 2 receivers need to get again to the playoffs and make even deeper run with their respective groups. They may maintain pushing one another — identical to brothers do.
“You possibly can inform that they know one another to the purpose that they are like brothers,” Hill mentioned. “It is on a deeper stage.”