All-Rookie inside linebacker Jatavis Brown may have been the steal of the 2016 NFL Draft. When Chargers General Manager Tom Telesco selected the reigning Mid-American Conference Defensive Player of the Year in the fifth round, his phone blew up with congratulatory messages from war rooms around the League. Scouts labeled Brown as being undersized at 5-11 and teams hoped he would fall to them in a later round, but the Chargers beat them to the punch, snagging the former Akron star with the 175th overall pick.
Brown had been a three-time first-team All-MAC performer for the Zips in addition to being the conference’s defensive player of the year in 2015. A team captain as a senior, he set school records at Akron for career tackles for loss and season tackles for loss and sacks. Despite all the accolades, Brown wasn’t invited to participate in either the Senior Bowl or the NFL Scouting Combine following his senior season. It wasn’t the first time he’d been overlooked. A native of Belle Glade, Fla., Brown grew up in the same neighborhood as Chargers wide receiver Travis Benjamin. While Benjamin was recruited to play at the University of Miami, the ‘Canes made no such offer to Brown. So lightly recruited was he that Brown didn’t even receive his first scholarship offer until three weeks before National Signing Day. It came from Akron. Rather than take a recruiting visit to the school, Brown looked the university up on the internet, liked what he saw, and signed a letter of intent with the Zips.
When the Chargers drafted Brown, he became the first player from Akron to be drafted by the Bolts.
Brown earned several All-Rookie honors after a season in which he ranked second on the squad with 73 tackles. It included 3.5 sacks and nine tackles for loss. Brown’s rookie season had its highs and lows, both on the field and off. The high included an award-winning performance in an early-October game versus the defending Super Bowl Champion Denver Broncos when Brown recorded a sack, a forced fumble, and a team-leading 12 tackles. The low would come just eight days later when Brown would learn that his 83-year-old father, Alfred, had passed just as he was set to board a team flight to Atlanta for a game against the Falcons. Some 35 family members, including Brown’s dad, had been scheduled to join the Chargers in Atlanta. Brown found out about his father’s passing just before boarding the team charter, yet he opted to remain with his teammates and travel to the Peachtree State. After a 33-30 overtime victory over the eventual NFC-Champion Falcons in which he played every defensive snap, then-Head Coach Mike McCoy presented Brown with a game ball in an emotional locker room.
The loss of his father was not the first time that Brown had encountered personal heartache in his immediate family. When Brown was just nine, his 12-year-old brother, Dimarques, died in an accidental drowning while fishing.
TRANSACTION HISTORY: Fifth-round pick by Chargers (175th overall), April 30, 2016...signed four-year contract, May 10.
2016: PFWA, Pro Football Journal and Mel Kiper first-team All-Rookie...took over for injured Te’o Sept. 25 at Indianapolis...late second-quarter 11-yard sack and forced fumble vs. Andrew Luck was recovered by Caraun Reid and returned 61 yards for touchdown to tie game 13-13...was Brown’s first NFL sack and forced fumble...later in game added tackle for loss and paced squad with two passes defensed...Pepsi NFL Rookie of Week after back-to-back game-changing plays late in fourth quarter of Oct. 13 Thursday Night Football win vs. Denver...logged 10-yard sack of Trevor Siemian on 1st-and-20 play and then forced fumble by Demaryius Thomas on 2nd-and-30 that was recovered by Craig Mager...also led Bolts with 12 total tackles...two key tackles for loss before leaving Denver game Oct. 30 late with knee injury...one-yard tackle for loss during first-quarter three-and-out... in third quarter four-yard tackle for a loss on first play after Broncos had returned interception to Chargers’ seven...on following play, Korey Toomer forced fumble at Chargers’ one that the Bolts recovered...offense then drove 98 yards for TD to get within 17-13...injured knee defending touchdown run at goal line two series later...earlier in game, also helped cap three-and-out with pass breakup on 3rd-and-14 play...inactive Nov. 6 vs. Tennessee, Nov. 13 vs. Miami, Nov. 27 at Houston and Dec. 4 vs. Tampa Bay (knee)...returned from injury Dec. 11 at Carolina...shared four-yard, third-down sack with Kyle Emanuel to force long field goal try Dec. 24 at Cleveland.
COLLEGE: 2015 MAC Defensive Player of Year and team captain, and first-team All-MAC 2013-15...2015 MAC Defensive Player of Week following two sacks, career-high 4.5 TFLs, forced fumble, pass break-up, and first interception of career vs. Miami (Ohio)...two-time Akron Student-Athlete of Week as senior...led team with 116 tackles as senior and set school records for sacks (12) and tackles for loss (20)...MAC East Defensive Player of Week after win over Pittsburgh in 2014...team’s Defensive MVP after team-high 99 tackles and 14.5 TFLs as junior...Fred S. Sefton Defensive MVP after team-high 107 tackles as sophomore in 2013...MAC East Division Defensive Player of Week after two-point win over Toledo in regular-season finale...played at Akron from 2012-15...organizational supervision major.
PERSONAL: Born in South Bay, Florida...Area Defensive Player of Year as senior after leading Glades Central High in Belle Glade, Fla. to undefeated regular season, including five shutouts.