KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Alex Brown was walking out of one of the Chiefs' meeting rooms when defensive backs coach Sam Madison approached and told Brown what he's dreamed of hearing his entire life.
“All right, it's your time,” Madison told the 23-year-old Brown, and just like that he was on his way to signing a contract as a member of the Chiefs' 53-man roster.
“It feels pretty good,” Brown said. “I've been working all my life for this, so I'm happy for the opportunity.”
The Chiefs promoted Brown to the active roster Thursday morning. The club also placed running back Darrel Williams on injured reserve, and re-signed wide receiver Gehrig Dieter to the practice squad.
The Chiefs promoted Brown with injuries challenging their depth at cornerback. Morris Claiborne (shoulder) and Rashad Fenton (hamstring) haven't practiced this week, leaving their status against New England on Sunday in doubt. Safety Tyrann Mathieu couldn't have been happier for his young teammate to earn his promotion
“Man has been putting in a lot of work, this is the guy here, man,” Mathieu said after Thursday morning's walkthrough. “Putting in a lot of work.”
Brown took a circuitous journey as rookie from South Carolina State to Kansas City. He wowed in his pro day last spring with a 4.42 40-yard time. His vertical jump (41 ½ inches) and broad jump (10 feet, 11 inches) both would have ranked among the top five among cornerbacks at this year's NFL Combine.
San Francisco signed Brown as an undrafted free agent and he spent OTAs with the 49ers. Philadelphia claimed Brown off waivers, but the club released him early August. Another waiver claim sent him to the New York Jets, where he played in three preseason games collecting eight total tackles and breaking up two passes. The Jets released him during the final cutdown to the opening week rosters. The Chiefs quickly nabbed Brown, signing him to their practice squad on Sept. 2.
His new teammates might not have known much about Brown at first. But he quickly earned rave reviews from teammates in Week 3 when the coaches tabbed him to play the Lamar Jackson role on the scout team in preparation for the Baltimore Ravens. Brown rushed for 950 yards on just 54 carries as a senior at Lake Marion High School in Santee, South Carolina, as a wildcat quarterback.
At his regular cornerback position, however, Brown says watching Bashaud Breeland, Morris Claiborne and Charvarius Ward helped him develop his game and learn new techiques.
“As a player I feel like I've developed mentally just watching my guys play and practice, especially press technique,” Brown said. “Getting better and better each week, so I'm becoming a better player all around.”
Brown picked up experience on the practice squad at multiple positions, including inside as a nickel back. But he's most comfortable outside, and that's where defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo projects him for now.
“He could slide in, but the way we're structured right now, he would probably be more outside,” Spagnuolo said.
Madison said Brown put his time in with the playbook and can handle the opportunity if it arises on Sunday.
“He understands the things that we are doing, understanding all of our individual techniques and things of that nature,” Madison said. “It's really the Saturday and Sunday types of things. He's been here Monday through Friday and understands what we really want from him.”
After Madison delivered the news of his promotion, Brown grabbed his phone and called his mom. “She was so excited, she's been waiting on this all her life,” Brown said. His dad was on the phone too, then he called his high school coach and college coaches to let them know.
Next stop for Brown, heading to New England and potentially making his regular-season NFL debut against the defending the Super Bowl champions.
“I think my mom is going to come to the game, my mom and dad is going to come to the game, so that's going to be pretty cool,” Brown said.