Football legend, Pro Bowler, two-time Super Bowl Champ, star cornerback, and member of the hard-hitting defensive backs called the “Legion of Boom” is now SQ resident Brandon Browner.
San Quentin Prison houses another great star who was once at the height of his career. Now Pro Bowler Brandon Browner wakes up in the confines of a four-by-nine prison cell-like all other SQ residents.
“Being in that small cell, with no room to even stretch out your arm, bumping into the locker, ” Browner said, “make you not wanna ever come back to prison.”
Browner said that it’s a humbling experience to go from having everything that he wanted to now sitting on the game tables on a prison yard.
The legendary cornerback was observing the draft of the San Quentin IBL (Intramural Basketball League) and taking in the bright Saturday sun.
“It’s cool to see that they (prison officials) got something like this for us to do,” said Browner. “It’s cool to see the good talent out here for us to enjoy.”
With his headphones draped on his neck, Browner appeared to be in awe of his surroundings. Browner is in prison for the first time in his life, for attempted murder. He declined to talk about his case — which is understandable in this new environment of strangers.
“As I’m looking at this draft, it kinda reminds me of the drafts I seen over the years,” Browner said. “I’ve seen the new guys get excited and I think of all the things they have to look forward to when they come into all that money.”
Browner was signed to the Denver Broncos in 2005 as a free agent. He got his first multi-million dollar contract when he was in his early 20s. He went from watching his idol, Champ Bailey, on TV to attending parties together, achieving celebrity status, receiving red carpet treatment and meeting lots of women. All at the young age of 22.
Browner later went on to join Pete Carroll’s Seattle Seahawks, where he linked up with former famed Seattle secondaries Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas, and Byron Maxwell and formed the world-renowned hard-hitting squad known as the “Legion of Boom.” Attending weddings and parties together and being a bad boy wasn’t always his way.
Browner came from humble beginnings, growing up in Southern California’s San Fernando Valley. Raised by a strict single mother with 17 brothers and sisters and a dad in the prison system, Browner was the first in his family to ever receive fame and financial wealth — which can account for some of his irresponsible behaviors, he said.
The retired football star’s down-to-earth aura and his approachable demeanor show up when he jokes with the men he allowed into his small circle of incarcerated friends. One of those newfound friends is the co-host of the world-renowned podcast Ear Hustle, Rahsaan “New York” Thomas.
“He in prison-like all of us here who made some bad choices,” said Thomas. “He been through trauma but, now he making some better choices. Since we don’t have no programs open yet because of COVID restrictions, he’s still doing a lot of reading and working on himself, and coping with his issues. I’m just another person that helps him do what he already know to do but struggles with. I’m just his conscience.”
Browner went to the New England Patriots and then to the New Orleans Saints, where he began to feel the effects of aging.
“I noticed my life start to spiral downward. I saw the turning point in my career. I got older and the younger cats in the league started to take a toll on me. It started to have a mental effect on me too.”
The instant wealth, along with the mental imbalances, gave him a sense of unrestrained arrogance that led to him taking for granted some of those he truly loved. Particularly his significant other.
“You don’t realize the good in your life until it crash or fall away,” Browner said. “My significant other experienced the worst side of me. I didn’t realize the damage I was causing her because I used to pacify her with things — with money, gifts and credit cards for shopping sprees. But a person get tired of being mistreated.”
The two share kids together and at the mention of his kids, he drops his head and lets out a disparaging sigh.
“My focus is on them. I do it all for them. I just want to do what I have to do so I can get home as quick as possible.”
Doing “what he has to do,” means taking as many programs as he possibly can so that he can earn the positive programming credits that would reduce his sentence.