By Mark Schremmer
John Brown’s childhood dream came true Friday night.
The Pittsburg State wide receiver and return man was selected by the Arizona Cardinals in the third round (No. 91 overall) of the NFL Draft.
He becomes the first Gorilla to be selected in the NFL Draft since running back Ronald Moore (fourth round) and defensive end Troy Wilson (seventh round) were picked in 1993. Moore, ironically, also was selected by the Cardinals.
Brown (5-feet-10, 179 pounds), who ran the second-fastest 40-yard-dash (4.34 seconds) among wide receivers at the NFL Combine, first caught the attention of NFL scouts with his exceptional speed.
“He fits the mold of what (Arizona coach Bruce Arians) was looking for, that he’s been talking to me about,” Cardinals general manager Steve Keim told Arizonasports.com. “He’s fast, explosive and a T.Y. Hilton type of player. He can blow the cover off the defense.”
However, the NCAA Division II All-American was a complete receiver during his three seasons at Pittsburg State. He hauled in 61 catches for 1,216 yards and 12 touchdowns as a sophomore in 2011 when the Gorillas captured the national championship. Brown followed with 63 catches for 973 yards and eight touchdowns as a junior and 61 catches for 1,198 yards and 14 touchdowns as a senior.
Brown finished with many of Pittsburg State’s receiving records. He surpassed former Harlon Hill Award winner Ronnie West in career receptions, career receiving yards and career receiving touchdowns.
Pittsburg State used Brown in a variety of ways. During his senior season, Brown rushed for 100 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries. He also was a major threat as a return man, averaging 32.4 yards per return with one touchdown as a senior.
Arizona acquired the 91st pick in a deal with New Orleans on Thursday.
“It was surprising,” Brown, who was watching the draft with friends and family at Homestead, Florida, told Arizonasports.com. “When I got the phone call, I was shocked. I couldn’t say too much.”
Brown joins Missouri Southern’s Brandon Williams (2013 by Baltimore), Northwest Missouri State’s Seth Wand (2003 by Houston) and Pittsburg State’s Daryl Wren (1991 by Buffalo) as the only players from the MIAA to be drafted as early as the third round.
Seattle used the last pick of the second round on Missouri offensive tackle Justin Britt, who graduated from Lebanon High School. He was the second Tiger selected. Defensive end Cony Ealy went to Carolina four picks earlier.
Lindenwood defensive back Pierre Desir, Pittsburg State linebacker Nate Dreiling and Oklahoma State offensive lineman Parker Graham are among the players with regional interest who hope to be drafted during today’s last four rounds.