Skip to main content

New Bengals RT Trent Brown Is A Proud Student Of The Willie Anderson School

New England Patriots offensive tackle Trent Brown (77) on the bench during the second half of an NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills, Sunday, Oct. 22, 2023, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
New England Patriots offensive tackle Trent Brown (77) on the bench during the second half of an NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills, Sunday, Oct. 22, 2023, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

Trent Brown has to hand it to Bengals Ring of Honor member and perennial Pro Football Hall of Fame finalist Willie Anderson.

Not only is the 6-8, 370-pound Brown easing into the Cincinnati right tackle spot Anderson defined in the turn-of-the-century NFL, but he is also doing it with a few pointers he picked up from the man himself a few offseasons ago and that includes Anderson's pioneering independent hands technique.

"Willie is my dog. He should be in the Hall of Fame," Brown said after one of his workouts in the Bengals' voluntary sessions that started this week. "Willie's always been kind of a fan of mine, just like I've been a fan of his. Out of respect, I just felt it was necessary to go to a legend and see what tips he might have for me ... I went up the street pretty much to work with him."

Brown's Albany, Ga., base isn't far from Anderson's Offensive Line Academy in Atlanta and during an offseason a few years back he took a few days in the gym. By that time, Brown already had a Super Bowl ring and a four-year, $66 million contract and that left an impression.

"It says a lot about him. He didn't have to do it. He wasn't trying to prove anything to anybody. It says a lot about his work ethic," Anderson says. "I know his trainer for conditioning, and he works his ass off for her. I had some college guys in, and he helped me out so much. He talked to them about the NFL, work ethic, what it takes, and what they should be doing."

Brown, who turned 31 last week, arrived looking to get better, not overhaul a game that has made him one of the NFL's more reliable pass protectors during a decade in the league.

"I'm a really natural pass protector. Naturally gifted and from playing basketball and other positions. Going back to when I was a rookie up to now, I've never been a guy that just gets beat. You can get that from my peers or the tape," Brown said. "I was just fine-tuning. Making small tweaks here and there."

After Anderson worked with him, he came upon a clip from Brown's college days at Florida dunking a basketball backward.

"I was just amazed at his size and how quick he was," Anderson said. "His lower body is huge, but he's so athletic.

"His feet are superior."

While Anderson played for the Bengals from 1996-2007, Brown grew up playing it all under the Texas sun. The 6-7 Reginald Brown, a former pro basketball player in China, had his son playing up two age groups in basketball, as well as football as a running back, wide receiver, and defensive end ("Everything but O-line"), so Trent had no time or inclination to follow NFL offensive linemen.

Brown became aware of Anderson through his O-line mentor in the pros, Duke Manyweather. Brown calls it the world of offensive line trainers and coaches. Through clips on social media, Brown saw the 6-6, 345-pound Anderson dominate people with a similar big-athlete game, as well as being able to teach it. He was particularly intrigued with how Anderson and his students held their hands.

"He teaches to carry your hands kind of like this. A high hand and a low hand," said Brown as he positioned his massive mitts. "So you can catch any inside move and then punch on the outside or do whatever."

Brown says defensive linemen have been conditioned over the years to counter the two-handed punch.

"When you can hold your hands like Willie teaches, it's a little different for them," Brown said. "I've always played with length, but this is just a different way of carrying my hands. Giving the D-linemen a different target, a different look. Something they're not necessarily used to. Some would think, 'Oh, he's got his chest open, so we're just going to bull.' That's what I would invite more times than not."

The universe's very first offensive coordinator, Plato, is credited with the line, "Necessity is the mother of invention." That's why Anderson devised the independent hands technique as the NFL pass rushers morphed right in front of him during his career.

No longer were most of them wired like the monster bull rushers in the Reggie White mold that populated the league early in his career. They were teeming with athleticism, shaking like Julius Peppers and baking like the spinning Robert Mathis, the walking strip-sack. For Anderson, the two-handed punch just wasn't a universal answer.

He came up with it and then-Bengals offensive line coach Paul Alexander helped him perfect it. He also named it. "The Club." Because Anderson would shoot his arm out and swing it down on the outside shoulder pad.

They knew the job of the tackle is to shrink the edge for those speedy werewolves and keep them from the quarterback in any way possible. Independent hands helped Anderson erase the edge by running the rushers around the pocket with one hand on the breastplate of the shoulder pads and the other on the hip, one of the concepts employed by the Bengals nowadays in an effort to keep Joe Burrow clean at any cost.

"That's not the only (technique) he uses. Pros use a plethora of things. I was able to show him a couple of things," Anderson said. "He's a pro. He can explain things. Good pros can explain football to you. All I know is that after that (2018) season the Patriots won the Super Bowl, Tom Brady kept yelling (Brown's) name. Tom Brady was on a mission to get him paid, get him recognized. He gave Trent a lot of damn love."

(Before that 10-3 win over the Rams in the Super Bowl, Brady told the world, "Trent has been incredible for us. To come in and embrace everything he's been asked to do is just incredible.")

Brown is a big fan of Brady, just like he is of Burrow. He sees that elite quarterback dynamic as well as a reunion of sorts with an old Pro Bowl acquaintance left tackle Orlando Brown Jr., his fellow 6-8 anchor.

"My cousin," Trent said.

And then there's playing Anderson's position. Trent Brown hasn't heard from him since he signed that one-year deal with his team last month. But he knows the clips Anderson saves for him ("He's always sending me videos") are going to start again soon.

"I'm sure I'll see him," Brown said.

Anderson finds himself pulling for another massive, athletic Bengals right tackle.

"Everything in the NFL is year-to-year. You have to prove yourself year-to-year and I'm sure he's in that mindset," says the even-handed Anderson. "His past says he's ready for the job."

FA Thumbnail

2024 Free Agency Tracker

The official source of news, interviews and more for Free Agency.