A.J. Brown’s tenure with the Eagles has been short, but fruitful. The 25-year-old is coming off the best game of his young career, having ripped through the Steelers’ defense for 159 receiving yards and three touchdowns last week.
It’s easy to forget that things could have been so much different for Brown, who seemed destined to snag fly balls rather than touchdowns at one point in his athletic career.
Brown was a two-sport star in high school, showcasing a multi-faceted approach on both the diamond and the gridiron. In fact, Brown became just the second player (after Kyler Murray) to feature in Under Armour’s All-American football and baseball games.
MORE: How good was Kyler Murray at baseball?
That translated to a mid-round selection in the 2016 MLB Draft, one that seemingly set the stage for a two-way foray the likes of which we haven’t seen since Deion Sanders and Bo Jackson in the 1980s and 1990s.
Brown flirted with a return to the baseball diamond for years while on the Titans.
Sometimes i think about playing both sports again 🤔@Padres all I need is a workout. I still got 😎 https://t.co/1PRo7ffAWm
— AJ Brown (@1kalwaysopen_) January 26, 2022
However, his trade to Philadelphia — and the four-year, $100 million deal that followed — spelled an end to all the speculation. Brown will not be making a run at a major league team. At least not yet.
Still, it’s always fun to revisit history and see what could have been. Here’s everything you need to know about A.J. Brown’s short-lived baseball career:
A.J. Brown Padres draft
The Padres selected Brown out of Starkville (Miss.) High School in the 19th round of the 2016 MLB Draft, 564th overall, earlier than several players from that class who have reached the majors including Cubs utilityman Zach McKinstry (33rd round) and Padres All-Star reliever David Bednar (35th).
Brown quickly signed with the Padres, making him ineligible to play baseball at Ole Miss, so he turned his attention to football.
A.J. Brown Padres contract
Brown always had his sights set for Ole Miss’ football team. That didn’t prevent him from agreeing to terms with the Padres, though.
I’m officially apart of the San Diego Padres .✨
— AJ Brown (@1kalwaysopen_) July 15, 2016
Brown’s signing bonus was not publicly reported, and the Padres had no expectation that he would focus on baseball, but he did spend a week each summer working out with Padres minor leaguers until he moved on to the NFL.
As late as the summer before his final season at Ole Miss, though, Brown told the Clarion-Ledger he would love to find a way to keep playing baseball and football.
“I want to do both since I’ve been doing both all my life,” he said.
MORE: Why the A.J. Brown trade could pay off in a Super Bowl visit for Eagles
A.J. Brown baseball position
Brown was a rangy center fielder back in high school, unsurprising given the blazing speed and fluid agility he has shown on the gridiron.
“I put an everyday [player] grade on him at the big league level,” San Diego scout Stephen Moritz, who scouted and signed Brown in 2016, told MLB.com earlier this year. “Right, wrong, indifferent, who knows? But I believe that with the athleticism — and he really loved the game, so he was going to work at it — there was a chance for him to be an everyday center fielder.”
Per Moritz, Brown had all the makings of a do-it-all outfielder. He had good pop in his bat, a Grade-A glove, and a work ethic that seemingly could have translated at the next level.
He was strikeout-prone, admittedly. But Brown had a skillset major league teams desire. And when Moritz got a glimpse at his game, it was like love at first sight.
“It was like watching a grown man on a field of high schoolers,” Moritz said. “Like, ‘Oh my God, this dude just scored from first, easy.’ … The first time I saw him, I knew this was a different kind of athlete than 99 percent of the players we were going to scout.”