The Redskins inside linebacker leads the league in tackles and has become a dominant force in the middle of the field for the defense. After a recent practice he discusses growing up as a wrestler, his musical influences and how he envisions the second half of the season. *
Have you ever been on a team with this many injuries?
Yeah, I've been on a team my rookie or second year with the Titans. The O-line, D-line, receivers and a lot of other people got hurt. This is not my first rodeo. You've just got to find a way to get the guys to get playing.
How tough is it seeing so many guys not able to play?
It's tough, because you're out there battling guys since training camp. You hate to see them go down. They're valuable parts to the team, so everybody's just got to regroup.
What is it like to see another teammate go down on the field during a game?**
You're just hoping it's nothing serious. It might be a nick or bruise. You just hope he can come back. You hope it's something he can play with and nothing really serious.
What was it like dealing with your pectoral tear?
It was kind of bad, because I couldn't be out there playing, and that's something I love to do. It was frustrating too, because I had to keep my arm near me for four months. I couldn't even lift. I got skinny. The usual conditioning, it was hard to come back from, because it's like a year over healing process.
Do you think about your own injury history when you see another teammate go down?
When I got hurt, I just wished it on nobody because the way it was. Just go to keep going. When something happens, you just hope they're alright.
Were you always a linebacker in high school?
No, I was a running back and a strong safety. I was never a linebacker.
Did you not have the weight to be a linebacker?
No, no I was big. I was like 205 [pounds]. I was big, I just didn't want to play linebacker, I wanted to play strong safety.
Did you change your mind about being a linebacker in college?
Yeah, basically in college, playing as a linebacker back there in a 4-3. In high school, you don't understand football like that.
Was it tough transitioning to linebacker?
No, you just had to learn the plays, learn the game. Once you learn you defense, it's easier to know where you want to fit. As long as you know your defense, you'll know where to fit with the offense, no matter what the offense does.
Check out behind the scenes images from Linebacker, Zach Brown's 2017 Redskins Photo Shoot.
Were you just as passionate about wrestling?**
Wrestling was fun. It was actually the first sport I did.
How old were you when you started?
Seventh grade, I think I was 12. Eleven or 12.
Who got you started in wrestling?
My mom, my step-mom did. She took me to the first practice. I wanted to quit afterward because it was so hard. I ended up going undefeated that year. That's when I realized I was good at it, and then I went to the Vipers, a travel league, and then took some losses. I ended up being real, real good at it. There's a pride thing when you're out there. It's fun, man. Practices are hard work, probably some of the hardest work I ever did.
Why do you like wrestling so much?
The competition, seeing if your team can win one-on-one, mano-a-mano. You and that guy. It helps with your balance, your tackling, your conditioning. It helps with a lot of stuff, mostly helps with your mindset. It's the hardest part I ever did. I look at football, it's not physically, mentally as hard as wrestling is. You've got three minutes, two minutes straight, non-stop. Football, you get to stop. In wrestling, you've got two minutes non-stop. There is no stopping. You've got three periods and it seems like it's forever.
Were you ever into WWE?
Nah, it's totally different. I wasn't into that. I'm not great at video games and what-not. I wasn't really into it.
Was wrestling the foundation that built you into a great tackler?
Yeah, definitely. My go-to move is a double layer three-way takeout. It makes it easier to use people's momentum and their balance against them. When you're tackling somebody, you don't want them to go forward. You've got to twerk their body away just to get them down. Sometimes if you get them, they might go forward, so you've got to make sure sometimes when you hit them, you've got to hit and make sure you grab and roll so they go the other way. If not, they're going to get that extra couple yards they might need for a first down.
Would tackling be harder if you didn't have that background in wrestling?
I probably would miss some more tackles.
What does the perfect tackle feel like for you?
In the Raiders game, when that guy spun around, and you just pitch your helmet down in the middle of his chest, that's the perfect one. The perfect tackle. He can't get away.
What does that feel like?
It feels good. Just getting that person down, it just feels good. It's like you're hitting a game-winning shot when you get a tackle. It's like you're getting that game-winning shot, especially if it's a tackle for a loss. You're doing your job to stop them from that big play.
Check out the top images from the Washington Redskins' defense in their 2017 Week 9 matchup against the Seattle Seahawks November 5th, 2017, at CenturyLink Field.
Do you like the initial impact or bringing them to the ground more?**
The first impact, that's all that matters. That's when they're really going to feel it. Hitting the ground is what causes injuries, but that first impact is what you want them to feel so they can know about you.
You're also extremely fast, is there a memory you have of beating somebody in a race when people ask you about your speed?
Track was just something I did for the fun of it to tell you the truth. I had to learn how to run. It was actually hard, because I wasn't always athletic. Once I learned how to run, it was different.
What did you fix when you learned how to run properly?
My coach, coach Perry, my track coach was like 'Keep your head down, lift your keens. Stop swinging your arms. Swing your arms here, your motion.' It was just different stuff. There's a lot of technique that goes into running that a lot of people don't know about.
So you still keep that technique in mind on the field?
Yeah, especially when I have to go get after somebody, I've got to be in perfect form to do that.
What's it like playing near where you went to high school?
It's different. There's not a lot to do, it's slow-paced out here. They're building, I see them building all kinds of stuff everywhere.
Do you still have family members in the area?
Yeah, I've still got family members, friends and relatives out there.
Have you gotten a chance to reconnect with them?
I always talk to my family no matter what. Even when I was in Buffalo or Tennessee, I still talked to them. There's not one day when I'm not going to talk to them.
Why do you keep such a low profile when it comes to the media?
I don't know what to say about that. Everybody probably thought I was the prototypical linebacker. People have their opinions, people like what they like and all you can do is go out there and play.
Do you feel like you've come into you own these last couple years?
Yeah. Last year, all that was a preview of what I was going to do my third year before I tore my pec. I had to come back from there and after I was fully healed from my pec, it was back to playing my game because I was in the middle to where I can get to both sides.
Is there a difference playing in a bigger market like D.C. instead of Buffalo or Tennessee?
No, not really. You've just got keep playing you game. No matter where you're at, you've still got to play the game.
Are you still planning on helping Bashaud Breeland with his music?
I don't care as much about that. People really think there's money, but there's no money in that. Your joint is based off your record label, or your label and they like what you do, unless you're independent.
Check out these photos of linebacker Zach Brown, who signed with the Washington Redskins on Monday, April 3, 2017.
Do you enjoy music as a whole?**
Yeah, I like music as a whole, music that tells stories. Talking about stupid stuff, I don't like that. I feel like you've got to have a sense to relate to it or I have to hear a story.
What artists do you relate to?
I listen Kevin Gates and I listen to Ed Sheeran. He's a good artist.
Why Ed Sheeran?
He's different. When you listen to his music, he's telling you, he's saying, he's from like England or something, but he was somewhere else, and it feels like he's a different person. He talks about relationships and stuff like that and just different ways you meet people. It was like "Dang, this is crazy, one of my exes is just like that." Everybody has their sensitive style. Lucas Graham, he's got a good album, too. I like it because it takes you back because he's talking about his brother. I've got a cousin that's locked up, and he's like my brother, too. I feel the same way.
So you listen to a lot of different genres?
It can be anything. I listen to a little bit of country. I don't listen to hard metal core rock. I don't listen to that.
What inspires you on a day-to-day basis?
Family, my kids. I'm doing this for me, but ultimately part of the game is fun, but my family inspires me.
Do you have a best friend on the team?
They're all good friends of mine. Probably everybody. Being a team, we've got to be able to talk to everybody. You just can't favor one person. For me, I talk to everybody. I'm from up here, so I'll be with my friends outside of here a lot more. I'll still be with them, but I still talk to them.
Do you think you're the biggest celebrity to come out of Estelle, S.C.?
Yeah, I probably am. I'm probably one of the ones that made it out of my city.
When's the last time you went back to Estelle?
Last summer. I always go back. My family is down there. Mostly to see my family, so I always go back to go see them. My grandmother, sisters and stuff are still living there, so I've been going to see them for a long time.
What is it like to go visit your hometown?
It means a lot. It takes me back, especially when the talk about how they wish their sisters can see her, I always take my sisters to see her too. It just brings back good memories when there wasn't all this craziness going on in the world. I can relax without having to worry about going to work or flying, eating some good food, locker room sports and stuff like that. Now, it's all crazy.
Who's the biggest celebrity you have in your phone?
I don't know, I don't have any big celebrities. A celebrity can be anybody.
How do you see the second half of the season playing out?
We've got to go good. I have nothing but positive things thinking about the second part. Every game is a must-win game. We're behind the eight ball. We're two games behind almost everybody to be where we're supposed to be. It's a long season and I've seen it happen before, especially here when they won seven in a row to go to the playoffs. It can be done.
What have you gotten out of being here that might make you want to stay?
It's good. Just being here, growing with them and keeping everybody together, that's how you build a dominant defense. The Broncos' defense is dominant because they kept all their guys together. Ravens' defense is the same way, the Steelers' defense is the same way. They bring in bits and pieces, but they keep most of their guys. A lot of people, if they keep most of their guys their defense is good because there's a chemistry that's built there. I already know what you want to do here, here and here. Just like the Seahawks, their defense has the key. It's all about chemistry.