"If I don’t believe in myself, who else will?” That’s Paul “Nino” Browning’s answer to why he exudes such confidence and fearlessness. The Baltimore Brigade wide receiver is never afraid of the next opponent, next career move, or even the next play, despite the level of difficulty.
Flashback to last weekend. The buzzer sounds to signal the end of the first half as Shane Carden rolls to his left. He launches a deep, Hail Mary to the end zone. Seconds before flipping over the wall, Browning hauls the ball in for a dramatic touchdown. That catch brings Baltimore within a touchdown of the undefeated Philadelphia Soul at the break. “At the end of the day, the Hail Mary is all about going up and making a play. I feel like that’s one of my best qualities as a wide receiver,” Browning explains. “If the ball’s in the air and we gotta jump for it, I’m coming down with it, period.” He executed the play like he’s done it a million times, but according to Nino, that’s not the case. “That was actually the first successful Hail Mary I’ve ever been a part of in my career. I haven’t been in that situation many times though,” he admits.
The Brigade would go on to upset the Soul and end Philadelphia’s 17 game win streak. Browning acknowledges, “It’s great for the team. It’s a testament to all the work we’ve been putting in and the strides we’re making.” He adds, “A win like that gives our team confidence going into this stretch of games. But with that being said, it’s still a regular season game and we understand there is so much more to accomplish.” Browning thinks his team can be dangerous in the playoffs. “When we play physical, mistake free football and our playmakers are making plays, I feel like we can play with anybody,” Nino affirmed. “We’re a team that’s getting better each week and we feel like we’ve got something to prove. At this point in the season, that is key.”
Baltimore will be an underdog if they qualify for the postseason. That’s a role Nino is used to. He went undrafted after an illustrious career at Colorado State University-Pueblo. Does that fuel him? He asserted, “I won four conference titles, a national championship, was an All-American who holds every receiving record at my university, and tested out better than most of my draft class at wide receiver. If you tied that to a big school guy, you’re looking at a Day 1 or Day 2 draft pick. But, because I went to a Division II school in Colorado that makes me less valuable. Yeah, I’ve got a chip on my shoulder.”
He’s not the only overlooked, undrafted star on the team. He catches his passes from Carden, the AFL Rookie of the Year frontrunner a couple years after being passed up out of East Carolina. “Shane is such a talent man. He’s the quintessential quarterback. Yes, he’s a gifted athlete that can make all the throws, but what makes him different is having the intangibles,” describes Browning. “He’s got the bravado. He’s got the winner’s mentality, and the man just knows how to make plays.”
The Hail Mary touchdown he caught from Carden was a microcosm of Browning as a player. His talent and instincts got him to the ball and his fearlessness allowed him to catch it without worrying about his inevitable flip over the wall. Nino Browning fears nothing in the game of football and that’s what will make his career special.