Derrick Brown’s epic journey through Auburn is finally complete.
He’s made history for the Tigers one last time. Now he’s where he belongs: at the highest level of pro football.
Brown was selected No. 7 overall by the Carolina Panthers on Thursday night, becoming Auburn’s highest selection in six years and etching his name in the record books as the program’s 15th-ever top-10 man.
He celebrated hearing his name called along with his family at his home in Atlanta during the league’s all-remote, all-virtual selection show.
“To finally be able to see my dreams come true — I waited a long time just to have this special moment — being able to spend it with my family, it meant the world to me,” Brown said.
“Under the circumstances, we weren’t where we originally planned to be in Vegas, but God willing, I was able to be here with my family and everyone was able to be healthy,” he continued in a statement through Auburn athletics.
Brown’s career at Auburn played out a bit like a tall tale. He made unforgettable plays with his mountainous size and awe-inspiring ability, and this season was beloved by fans while suiting up as a pro-ready player. He spurned his first opportunity at pro football last year in order to come back to finish his degree, and this season made child’s play out of the SEC’s weekly awards while doing something that kept fans talking seemingly every game. He was larger-in-life in a way that fit his 6-foot-4, 326-pound frame.
Now Auburn fans wave on his long-awaited ride into the sunset and into the NFL.
He’s Auburn’s highest pick since Greg Robinson was selected No. 2 overall in the 2014 draft.
He joins a rebuilding Panthers team that has moved on this offseason without former Auburn star Cam Newton, the 2011 No. 1 overall pick and incidentally the only other Auburn player besides Robinson to be picked higher than Brown since Ronnie Brown and Carnell ‘Cadillac’ Williams were both made top-five selections off the undefeated 2004 team.
Online sports contract tracker Spotrac projects the No. 7 overall selection to earn Brown a rookie contract worth $23.6 million.
“We’re very excited for Derrick. We’re very excited for Derrick’s family,” Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn said in his own statement. “He had a chance last year to probably be a first-rounder. He chose to come back, now he’s the No. 7 overall player. We’re very excited for Derrick right now.
“Derrick’s a dominant player,” he went on. “He’s dominant against the run, dominant against the pass. He’s like a coach on the field. He’s smart, he’s durable. They’re getting the complete package with Derrick Brown.”
Auburn fans herald the times this season when Brown threw an offensive lineman back into top pick Joe Burrow, and when he appeared in the secondary like magic on a play against Ole Miss that saw him running on late from the sideline. He poured sweat into Auburn’s program in a stellar 2019 season after a stellar 2018 season before that proved he was already ready for the top level.
He earned All-SEC honors and was named SEC Defensive Player of the Year along with plenty more accolades this season, and now, he has fulfilled that destiny becoming a top-10 pick in the NFL Draft.
“I’m excited to be a Panther,” Brown said. “It was talked about. It’s a dream come true. I’m excited to be able to call Carolina my new home. They’re getting a true dog on the field, and somebody they can trust off the field.”