WILLIAMSBURG — Antonio Brown's coach didn't know his whereabouts Tuesday morning. No harm: Training camp doesn't start for another month.
But Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin would have been interested, so Brown decided to snap a selfie. In the Jimmye Laycock Football Center, alongside the man it was named after. With a photo honoring Tomlin in the background.
"I didn't let him know I was coming," Brown said. "He'll like this."
Tomlin, of course, is one of W&M's most famous alums, and Brown was in town for Laycock's Colonial All-Pro Football Camp. Since his rookie season in 2010, Brown has had no other head coach. It's been a prosperous relationship.
Brown came into the league as a sixth-round draft pick, No. 195 overall, out of Central Michiganl. All-Pros Dez Bryant and Demaryius Thomas went before him, but so did Taylor Price (five career catches), Mardy Gilyard (now in the Arena League) and Jordan Shipley (retired after three seasons).
In his NFL debut, Brown returned the opening kickoff for an 89-yard touchdown. He was the Steelers' fifth receiver for most of the year, but he rapidly climbed the depth chart.
In his second season, Brown had 69 catches for 1,108 yards. He also had 1,134 return yards, making him the first player in league history to crack four figures in both categories. It was clear Pittsburgh had gotten — pardon the pun — a steal.
Check out Brown's numbers over the last four seasons: 481 catches, 6,315 yards, 43 touchdowns. He's only 5-foot-10 and 180 pounds, average size for a high school wideout. But most NFL analysts regard either him or Atlanta's Julio Jones as the game's best receiver.
"You just have to get better," he said. "No matter where you start, it's all about how you finish. If you get better every day, eventually it will add up."
Like those aforementioned numbers.
In addition to his production, Brown is also known for his celebrations. Last year alone, he was flagged for twerking — "sexually suggestive," allegedly —and a bizarre, yet hilarious slam into a goal post.
In May, the NFL announced it would relax its rules on celebrations to allow for "spontaneous exuberance." Brown is on board.
"I'm excited about it," he said. "The NFL did a great job to give us the opportunity to get people even more excited about how we celebrate with our teammates. Especially the offensive line, guys who don't get to celebrate a lot."
In Brown's seven seasons, the Steelers have gone 72-40 in the regular season and made the playoffs five times. They lost the Super Bowl to Green Bay in his rookie year. They lost the AFC championship game to New England five months ago.
Pittsburgh has won six Super Bowls but none since 2008. Getting so close but not closing last season wasn't fun.
"It just makes you even madder to get right there," Brown said. "But every year presents an opportunity, and we're excited about the journey that lies ahead of us. We know what we signed up for, and that's our goal."
He and Tomlin hope to do it together.
"I've learned a lot from him," Brown said. "He's a motivator, and he's a straight shooter. He's always inspiring his players. It's a blessing to play for him and be around him."
Johnson can be reached at 757-247-4649.