When Jon Brown stepped onto the field late in the first quarter of Sunday’s game against the Lions, the Jaguars kicker was about to attempt the first field goal of his life.
This is only a slight exaggeration. Brown did not kick in high school. In college, he only kicked off. He’d been on and off of NFL rosters since 2016, and nailed a 55-yard field goal in the 2018 preseason, but he never hit a field goal in a regular-season or postseason game at any level.
Brown was a wide receiver for the football team at Clinton High School in Mississippi, but his soccer career was what got him attention. He was two-time all state in soccer after scoring 38 goals in four years. On scholarship at Kentucky for soccer his freshman year, Brown transferred to Louisville to make a go at both sports. He eventually quit soccer and began working with kicking guru Brett Baer. It didn’t go so well. “We had to start from step one,” Baer told the Courier-Journal in 2018, “and I had to kind of explain to him what a field goal was.”
Brown improved, and had a hell of a leg. He made the Louisville football team his junior year, but he was behind another kicker on the depth chart, and only kicked off eight times in college before an injury ended his collegiate career in 2016.
No matter. Brown impressed a Bengals scout at Louisville’s pro day and spent training camp with them in 2016 and 2017. He lost a competition with Randy Bullock for the job in 2018. He signed with the 49ers in 2019, but was cut in the summer. He signed with the Jags on New Year’s Eve last year, but was waived in April.
After a series of injuries to Jags kickers, Brown returned and was called up to become the team’s fifth kicker this season. Longtime Jags kicker Josh Lambo hurt his hip in Week 2, and Jacksonville has since shuffled through Brandon Wright, Stephen Hauschka, and Aldrick Rosas, who all either suffered injuries or were mediocre. The Jags cut Hauschka in favor of Brown, who they had signed to their practice squad on Oct. 9.
Brown hit the first field goal of his NFL career, a 31-yarder. The Jaguars’ celebratory tweet, with an extra H, did not match the way his name is spelled on the roster.
The rest of the day wasn’t perfect for Brown, as he hit the right upright on a 32-yard field goal attempt in the second quarter, but he did hit his lone extra point in addition to his first meaningful field goal as the Lions beat Jacksonville, 34-16. The Florida Times-Union gave the Jaguars’ special teams a grade F and said Lambo would probably be back next week.