Wide receiver John Brown caught his first touchdown as a Baltimore Raven during the team's 47-3 win against the Buffalo Bills Sept. 9.
After scoring the touchdown, Brown presented the ball to wide receivers coach Bobby Engram. Engram was coaching his first regular-season game since the death of his 20-year-old daughter, Bobbi, Aug. 25.
For Brown, presenting the ball was a reflection of how much Engram meant to him and the Ravens' entire receiving corps.
"We have a great relationship with Coach Bobby," Brown told PressBox. "He's just a great guy overall. When you have people that are family-oriented, you understand people's pain."
Brown has dealt with his own share of tragedy in his life. When he was 20, his half-brother, James Walker, was shot dead.
"I lost a brother before," Brown said. "I really couldn't feel what [Engram] felt, but to his kids, I felt their pain because I know how it is to lose a sibling. We were there in his corner through the whole time. Giving him a touchdown ball, I know it's not something that's going to make him feel really better after losing a child, but it brightened his day for him and his family. I told him the game ball was for him and his family."
According to his teammates, Brown's gesture is also a reflection of how the entire unit feels about the coach despite the fact most of them have only known him for a few months.
"Bobby means everything to me and my entire group," rookie receiver Jordan Lasley said. "He drafted me this year, and we instantly started that attachment and that kind of relationship ever since I've been here since May. To hear about his daughter and everything, it was really saddening to the whole group. That's why Smoke ended up giving him the ball."
"That's my big brother," veteran receiver Michael Crabtree said emotionally. "He's everything a big brother is supposed to be."
"When we first walked in the building, he made us feel like we're family," receiver Willie Snead IV said. "We can talk to him about anything. If something tragic happened to me, I know I can open up to him and talk to Bobby about whatever. And that's just the type of relationship he has with everybody. That's why we respect him so much. That's why we would be there for him if he ever needed anything. It's just that initial interaction with him, it's just like, 'Hey, I'm your brother. I'm not your coach, I'm your friend.'
"He's definitely somebody in our room that we have a lot of respect for and that we love a lot. If football ended tomorrow, I would still have a relationship with him."
That relationship built through admiration had helped the group gel even before rallying behind their position coach as he mourned the unthinkable loss of one of his four children. But after the tragedy, the newly assembled squad felt even more compelled to rally behind a coach they had come to love and respect so much in such a short amount of time.
"I just knew that I had to be there," Brown said. "Once you're family-oriented and you're all about your family, you know a great person when you meet a great person like that. They don't deserve that, but God has the say-so with everything. But I just knew I had to be there.
"There's not much you can say after someone is going through that situation, but you can show them that you're there for them and you're willing to be there no matter the situation. I know that if it was the other way around, I know for a fact that he would be there for me."
"Before our last preseason game against Washington, [Engram] finally came back and kinda gave us the breakdown of what's been going on in his life, that kinda stuff," Lasley said. "I just pulled him to the side and just let him know I was there and I'm supportive of him and I love him."
"Whenever something like that happens to anybody, it's a tragic moment and you just want to be there for them as much as you can, in prayer and in comfort in person," Snead said. "Just the last couple of weeks, just been trying to be there, open to talk to him if he needs that. I know he copes in different ways, but he's definitely been positive and he's coming to work and he's grinding just like we are."
You might hesitate to draw a parallel between this Ravens receiving corps rallying together behind Engram during a time of overwhelming tragedy and their incredible performance during the team's Week 1 win (particularly considering Crabtree, Brown and Snead were all coming off disappointing 2017 seasons). It seems a bit trite. But there certainly appears to be a special bond developing between the players and coach sharing the team's wide receivers room.
"We're just all good guys, so I feel like that's what we would do for anybody," Lasley said. "But it really hit home for it to be our own receiver coach. We just wanted to rally around him and support him and let him know we're there. We just got good guys in our room."
"We real with each other," Brown said. "We keep it real and we just tell it how it is. When we're all going through something, we're there for each other. That's what families do."
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Photo Credit: Sabina Moran/PressBox