Veteran wide receiver Troy Brown has never been big on tracking his statistics. In fact, he says the only numbers that he pays any attention to are those on the scoreboard during Patriots games.
For Brown, individual accomplishments are not important. Wins and losses are the only records worth following. Soon, however, Brown will be setting a personal record that, whether he likes it or not, will force him to take a look back on his outstanding career and acknowledge his impressive individual achievements.
The 14-season veteran is on the verge of surpassing the Patriots' alltime mark for career receptions. After leading the Patriots with four catches for 51 yards against the New York Jets and notching another four catches for 41 yards against the Broncos, Brown stands just 11 grabs short of breaking Stanley Morgan's career record of 534 receptions.
So is Brown planning any kind of celebration when that day comes?
"That's really not my style," the Marshall University product said.
Brown maintains that the team's success is more important than his own. "Accomplishments are good but only if the team is doing well because that's what means the most," he explained.
Brown's team-first attitude is the reason he has the support of the man whose record he is about to break.
"Troy is an excellent player and the type of teammate that any player would love to play alongside of," Morgan said. "He does it all."
There is more than enough game footage to prove both statements true.
Brown's journey into the record books has not been an easy one. He maintained a spot on the roster early in his career by contributing on special teams before establishing himself as a reliable receiver. In his rookie season, Brown led the team in punt return yardage and was second in kick return yards. He collected just a pair of receptions in his first two years in the league.
In fact, what makes Brown's achievement even more amazing is that he collected just 137 receptions over the first seven years of his career before finally breaking out as a favorite target of Drew Bledsoe in 2000, when he hauled in 83 catches.
In 2001, Brown earned his first Pro Bowl nod when he set the Patriots single- season record with 101 catches. He followed up that campaign with 97 receptions the following year. He has seen his numbers decline in recent seasons, however, he never complained as the Patriots' offensive system of spreading the ball around to different receivers and the emergence of talented young wideouts cut into his reception totals.
Instead, Brown continued to find other ways to contribute, including maintaining his role on special teams, as he became the Patriots all-time leading return specialist. Brown also began to study the team's defense and made a quick transition to defensive back to help an injury-depleted secondary in 2004. That season, he became the only player in franchise history to catch a pass and pull down an interception in the same game.
Yet, Brown seeks no praise for his unselfishness. He just wants his teammates to see that he is working as hard as he can.
"When I hear coaches tell young players to watch me and do the things the way that I do them, that means the most to me," he said.
A member of the Patriots since he was selected in the eighth round of the 1993 NFL Draft, Brown is the only current New England player to precede Robert Kraft's ownership of the team, and along with Tedy Bruschi, is the only remaining Patriot to be a part of the franchise's last four Super Bowl teams.
"I've been a part of the low times and a part of the good times," Brown said with a grin.
While he stands firm that surpassing the milestone is not a big deal, Brown does admit that when he surpasses Morgan's mark, he wants it to be in a game that the Patriots are victorious.
"You don't want to accomplish something like that when the team's not playing well because it will take all the fun out of it," Brown said. "I think that my teammates and my coaches will enjoy it much more than I will. That's what I get a kick out of is seeing other people having a good time and enjoying themselves.
It will put a smile on my face to see that the people around me are happy."
Morgan will be one of the people smiling, as the bittersweet moment takes place.
Just last season, while in New England for the reunion of the 1985 Super Bowl team, Morgan approached Brown about breaking the all-time receptions mark
"I told Troy that if anyone was going to break the record that I was glad that it was going to be him," Morgan said. "Troy reminds me so much of myself."
Morgan said that he has been following Brown's career closely since the fellow South Carolinian was just making a name for himself catching passes from Bledsoe. Morgan took a liking to Brown's style of play.
"He does whatever is asked of him," Morgan said. "He doesn't make a lot of hoopla. He just does his job every day."
Like Brown, Morgan completed 13 seasons wearing a Patriots uniform, but moved on to play a season in Indianapolis before retiring with the Denver Broncos. Morgan said he regrets not finishing his career in New England.
"I envy Troy that he is probably going to play his career out with the Patriots," Morgan said. "I would have given anything to have had that."
Brown is happy that he has had the opportunity to spend his entire career in New England.
"It's been a good place for me," he said. "Not only on the football field but out in the community, too. People have always welcomed me here with open arms and always supported me. They made it easy for me to make the adjustment coming from down South to New England."
Morgan, who also became an adopted son of Patriots fans, is looking forward to the historic day, but can take solace in the fact that he holds another record that stands high above the pack. His 10,352 receiving yards remain nearly 4,000 more than Brown's second place total. That record will remain safe for a long time to come.
"I'm a firm believer that records are made to be broken," Morgan said. "I'll probably be excited but I'll be sad a little too because it's been a long time."
Brown was named to the Pro Bowl after collecting a franchise-best 101 receptions in 2001.
This article was originally published in New England Patriots Gameday.