Written by Sean Meyers
When rookie wide receiver Justin Brown steps on the field for Pittsburgh Steelers training camp at St. Vincent College, he sees a very familiar face. Brown, a sixth-round draft selection, is joined by his fellow receiver from Penn State.
Brown spent his first three collegiate seasons with the Nittany Lions, lining up alongside Derek Moye, also in camp with the Steelers this summer.
As Brown looks to find his niche at receiver, he knows he has a teammate he can turn to.
“It’s just good to be around (Moye) again, getting that opportunity to go out here and compete…and get on the same page,” Brown said.
Brown met Moye long before he even began his college career. Moye hosted Brown when he made his recruiting visit to Happy Valley. The duo played together for three seasons at Penn State, including the turbulent 2011 campaign that was marred by the Jerry Sandusky scandal.
Both players believe they’ve learned from that trying experience. “Life’s not always going to be easy for you,” Brown said. “At that point in time in both of our careers, it was a little bit of adversity, but you gotta play through it every week, and deal with it on and off the field, and I think we did a good job.”
Moye agreed with Brown’s assessment. “As an athlete you’re always used to fighting through adversity. Obviously that was a unique situation,” Moye intimated. “It taught us to get ready for anything that happens.”
Following the sanctions that the NCAA imposed upon Penn State last summer, Brown elected to transfer to Oklahoma. Brown thrived with his new team, as he set career-highs with 73 receptions for 879 yards, nearly matching the numbers from his first three seasons combined in State College.
Leaving Penn State wasn’t easy for Brown, though. He cited leaving his teammates as the hardest part of his transfer. “I still stayed in contact, but I was so comfortable with them, that was probably the only drawback,” Brown said.
Although Moye had already graduated when Brown left Penn State, he did offer his support. “I talked to him, just asked him what was going through his head,” Moye said. “When he made the decision, (I) just congratulated him and wished him luck and it worked out well for him and he had a good season.”
During their three seasons together at Penn State, Moye produced much more prolific numbers. The Rochester High School product caught 141 balls for 2,324 yards and 17 touchdowns. Despite his accomplishments, however, Moye’s name was not called during the 2011 NFL draft. After stints with the Dolphins and Saints, Moye joined the Steelers’ practice squad in November.
Moye expressed his delight to be reunited with Brown this summer. “When he got drafted by the Steelers, I was real excited for him, having the opportunity to play with him again,” Moye noted. “Being with him now is great, having a guy you’re so familiar with.”
Now, Brown and Moye are competing against each other to make the Steelers final roster. Despite the competition, both players embrace seeing one another.
“It’s definitely competitive, but at the same time, we realize we’re a team,” Moye said. “Even though we’re fighting for a spot, that still doesn’t mean we can’t help each other out with certain things that we see and pick up on each other’s games.”
“He told me take advantage of every rep,” Brown said. “I always went to D Moye for advice ever since I was being recruited.”
In addition to their college ties, Brown and Moye have something else in common: their impressive size. Brown stands 6-foot-3 inches, 209 pounds, while Moye is 6-foot-5 and 210 pounds. With the exception of Plaxico Burress, they are easily the biggest receivers on the roster.
“We’re just trying to use our size, that’s one of the things we’ve been blessed with,” Brown detailed. “That’s what we try to do, just make the adjustments to the jump balls and catching the ball outside of our frame with our long arms.”
Moye agreed, saying, “Over the years, the Steelers haven’t had a big receiver. Now with me, Justin and also Plax being here, it gives us an opportunity to bring something unique to the table.”
Despite being around a familiar face, Brown realizes that making the team will rest solely on his shoulders. “I have a lot of improvement. Just have to go out there and keep working hard everyday,” he said. “Being a rookie, you gotta be willing to do anything the coaches want me to do.”
“I’m blessed to have this opportunity with the Steelers, and I’m going to take advantage of it.”