Hanahan’s Brown readies for NFL Draft, degree

Notre Dame wide receiver Chris Brown (2), from Hanahan High School, is projected as a late-round pick in this week’s NFL Draft. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

The University of Notre Dame does not do on-line courses, at least not in Chris Brown’s classes. So Brown had to spend a lot of time on the road between South Bend and Chicago this spring as he finished up his degree and prepared for the NFL Draft.

“You have to be here to go to class,” Brown said with a laugh.

Brown, a former Hanahan High School star, often drove the 95 miles around Lake Michigan to work out at Elite Sports Performance in Chicago while also working on his degree in African-American history and Africana studies. He’ll graduate next month, but hopes for an NFL career of some length before he has to put that degree to work.

Brown, a 6-2, 194-pound receiver, is projected as a late-round draft pick in the draft, which begins with the first round Thursday. Rounds two and three are set for Friday, with four through seven on Saturday.

Brown, who was set to fly home to Hanahan on Wednesday night, just hopes to hear his name called at some point.

“I just hope I get drafted and wherever that may be, I’ll be happy,” Brown said Wednesday.

Brown’s main goal in his workouts at ESP was to put on weight, and he added about 14 pounds to get up to 194. He ran a 4.44 40-yard dash at Notre Dame’s pro day, a time which would have placed fifth among the receivers at the NFL Combine (Brown did not run at the combine). He’s held private workouts with the Dolphins, Saints, Texans, Patriots and Chargers and met with the Titans and Jets.

Brown’s steady improvement at Notre Dame — he started at least four games each season, and caught 48 passes for 597 yards and four touchdowns as a senior — and intelligent route-running appeals to NFL scouts. Some have dinged him for a “thin frame”, which is why those 14 extra pounds were so important.

“I wanted to make sure I filled out my frame really nice while maintaining my explosiveness and my speed,” he told a Chicago paper. “I feel like I’ve been able to do that.”

At Notre Dame, Brown paired with speedy wideout Will Fuller, who ran a 4.32 at the combine. Fuller caught 29 TD passes the last two seasons, and is projected to go in the first couple of rounds of the draft.

Brown, who was The Post and Courier’s high school athlete of the year in 2012, showed his promise early at Hanahan, catching 31 passes as a sophomore and 52 passes for 1,105 yards and 16 TDs as a junior.

He also won two state titles in the triple jump, breaking a 32-year-old state record, and helped the Hawks to a state track title in 2011.

But the game Brown remembers most came during his senior year, after he broke his collarbone early in the football season.

In his return to action, his first catch went for a touchdown, and he ended up scoring four TDs.

“It was a Thursday night game, I think against Stall,” he said. “It just felt easy, and I think that’s when I realized I could have success at the next level.”

In just 4 1/2 games that year, Brown caught 33 passes for 532 yards and 12 TDs. In a playoff win over Lake City, he caught nine passes for 145 yards and three scores, and returned a punt 72 yards for a TD.

Four years later, Brown said his career at Notre Dame has set him for success again at the next level.

“I made the decision to come to Notre Dame for academics and for football,” he said. “I think I was able to make the most of my time here, and it set me up for my dream of going to the NFL and having a degree from Notre Dame. It was a good decision, and it’s paying dividends for me now.”