Michael Griffin

Tarell Brown instructs at his football camp in Mesquite, which was free for all participants. A national champ at Texas, Brown started in the Super Bowl last season and is one of many former Texas defensive backs to be drafted recently.

Photo Credit: Emily Ng | Daily Texan Staff

It seems like everyone knows him here.

Tarell Brown shakes dozens of hands and signs hundreds of autographs after running his sixth football and cheerleading camp in Mesquite since beginning his NFL career. He’s joined by former Longhorns teammates Michael Griffin, Michael Huff and Aaron Ross – four of the 13 Longhorns defensive backs that have been drafted since 2002.

“It’s a fraternity,” Huff said. “At Texas, us DBs pride ourselves in being a family and keeping the tradition going. Any time one of our DBs have something going, we’re going to be there.”

After spending an hour signing autographs for the throng of adoring young campers, Brown, Huff, Ross and Griffin proudly put on shirts that proclaimed: “Texas Football is the new DBU.”

Brown has done a fine job upholding that “DBU” legacy but his path to success hasn’t always been a smooth one. He partially tore his ACL after his rookie season and spent his first four years in the NFL as a backup.

But possibly his most painful setback came while he was still playing for Texas, who he helped win its first national championship in more than three decades in 2005.

One of two Heisman Trophy winners for USC, Matt Leinart went into the fourth quarter of that season’s national title game without a touchdown pass.

That changed with 6:42 left, when he threw a dart between Texas safety Michael Griffin and cornerback Tarell Brown. Dwayne Jarrett rose over Brown and Griffin, plucked the ball out of the air as the two defenders collided and his outstretched arm crossed the goal line.

USC took a 38-26 lead over Texas while Griffin and Brown lay limp next to each other at the 5-yard line. Griffin was fine, but Brown, who made a career-high 10 tackles in that game, had suffered a broken right forearm. He was forced to watch Vince Young lead the Longhorns to a scintillating 41-38 victory on the television in the locker room.

“I was going for the ball and I just got hit. That’s all I really remember,” Brown said. “I remember breaking my forearm and my whole right side going numb. I knew something was broken. We did a great job finishing the game off.”

Eight years later, Brown had a much different championship experience. After earning a starting spot at cornerback for the San Francisco 49ers before the 2011 season, Brown had helped them reach their first Super Bowl in nearly two decades.

Brown, who the 49ers drafted in the fifth round of the 2006 NFL Draft, was part of a secondary that boasted the fourth-best pass defense in the league. But Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco had picked it apart to the tune of three first-half touchdown passes.

The 49ers picked apart at a 28-6 Ravens lead in the second half and got as close as 28-23 after Brown forced a Ray Rice fumble, which led to a David Akers field goal. But San Francisco was never able to break through, falling to Baltimore, 34-31, in Super Bowl XLVII this February.

“There’s nothing like playing in the Super Bowl,” Brown said. “It’s all about winning. I remember the national championship a lot more because we won. The Super Bowl was great, getting the opportunity to represent your team, yourself and your family. We had a great run. We just couldn’t finish it at the end.”

Brown has come a long way since since starring at North Mesquite High School, where he rushed for more than 3,000 yards in his last two years and established himself as one of the top cornerback prospects in the country.

He returned to Mesquite last weekend for his camp, which he doesn’t charge for because he couldn’t afford to go to such camps as a child.

“I always thought it was something important for my community,” Brown said. “This was always big for me, always something I wanted to do, just to give something back to the kids.”

Maybe next year, he’ll come to the camp wearing a Super Bowl ring.

Tennessee Tians placed franchise tag on Michael Griffin Monday. a two-time Pro Bowler, Griffin starrted for Longhorns when they won a national title game against USC that season. His eight blocked punts are a Texas school record.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

The Tennessee Titans have tagged safety Michael Griffin as their franchise player.

The Titans announced the move Monday a couple hours before the NFL deadline to use the tag.

The move to tag Griffin still allows the Titans to work on a long-term contract before July 16 with the safety who was their first-round draft pick in 2007 out of Texas. Griffin was due to become an unrestricted free agent on March 13.

Another team could sign Griffin to a contract, but the franchise tag allows the Titans to either match the contract or be awarded two No. 1 draft picks.

“Tag your it,” Griffin wrote on Twitter after the Titans’ announcement.

By tagging Griffin, the Titans are on target to return both starting safeties.

The 6-foot Griffin is a two-time Pro Bowler, the last in 2010 when he led the team with four interceptions and ranked second on the team with a career-high 153 tackles. In 2011, he ranked third with 96 tackles and tied for the team lead with two interceptions. For his career, Griffin has started 73 of 80 games played and he has 17 career interceptions with seven forced fumbles and four fumbles recovered.

Carrington Byndom (23) tackles Texas Tech wide receiver Austin Zouzalik in the Longhorns' recent 52—20 victory over the Red Raiders. Byndom has quickly become one of the Longhorns' best defensive backs this season.

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

Carrington Byndom isn’t much of a talker. But the cornerback sure knows how to listen.

Of course, it helps to be around people who know what they’re talking about.

Byndom’s postion coach, Duane Akina, has sent dozens of defensive backs to the NFL, with 10 currently in the league.

“He hangs on to every word that Akina tells him,” said defensive coordinator Manny Diaz. “He’s not brash and boisterous but at the same time he exudes a quiet confidence.”

Byndom spent his summer working out in Austin with Akina’s pupils, including Michael Huff, Aaron Ross, Cedric Griffin and Michael Griffin. He picked their brains and soaked it all in.

So far, it’s paid off. The sophomore has started all eight games and leads the Longhorns with 11 pass breakups.

“You’re around them and around their presence and they teach you their little secrets to improve your game,” Byndom said. “That was another key for me. They just give you their insight because they’ve been through this. They’re helping us prepare our game and get that much better for the future.”

His future certainly is bright. Give Byndom another year in Akina’s system, and he’ll be lining up at corner on Sundays.

The defensive backs room at the football complex is home to the “Money Wall,” homage to the former Longhorns who have gone on to the NFL. It’s also a constant reminder of the high expectations that come with being Akina’s latest pupil.

“Every DB wants to be on the money wall when they leave here,” Byndom said. “That’s another goal, another milestone for us, to have you picture up there on the wall so every DB who comes after knows he made the money wall.

“I definitely aspire to be like one of those guys that came through our defensive back room. Being like them is a goal for me, maybe even going beyond that.”

Byndom’s certainly gone above and beyond expectations in his first year as a starter.

“He’s been a pleasant surprise,” Akina said. “I knew he was going to be a good player, but he’s really ahead of schedule, much more physical. He’s really just seeing the game. He’s an outstanding athlete and now the game is really beginning to slow down. All those reps are starting to catch up."

Byndom routinely draws the assignment of covering the opponent’s best receiver and has done well in that role. He held his ground against Oklahoma’s Ryan Broyles and shut down Oklahoma State’s Justin Blackmon.

“He’s now one of the best corners in this conference, and his goal is to become national,”
Akina said.

Byndom may not be a big talker, but he let’s his game speak for him. And while his 6-foot, 180-pound frame might not be all that imposing, he’s not afraid to mix it up and hit somebody.

“He’s just a class act, much like Aaron Ross, Michael Huff and yet, on the field, very competitive,” Akina said. “Don’t let that demeanor fool you a little bit. He’s a physical, tough guy.”

On Saturday against Missouri’s 37th-ranked pass offense, Akina will need to make adjustments on the fly and shout instructions between plays. You can be sure that Byndom will be listening.