GM Marty Hurney and HC Matt Rhule Availability
On taking Derrick Brown over Isaiah Simmons
Marty Hurney: "We had them both pretty close together, obviously. But we both believe that you start building from the front and I think what Derrick does is, he not only helps guys like K.K. (Short) and the rest of the line, but he helps Shaq (Thompson), he helps the linebackers. He's a big powerful player that's got a really good first step. He's a three-down player. Obviously he helps you against the run, but he really gets push up the middle. We met with him several times. I met with him after the season. I really didn't think he would make it to 7, but I believe you start up front and he's a really good player that can not only stop the run, but really get pass rush up inside for you."
On Brown in the pass rush
Matt Rhule: "Last year we had 53 sacks, so there're some guys there, Burns and other guys coming back that have had some production. I think what we need to do, especially now that we're getting KK (Short) healthy is have some interior guys that can really get in the face of the quarterbacks in this league. You have three established quarterbacks in the NFC South. I think just having a guy with his arm length, I think it's like 34-, 35-inch arms, that's the ability to keep offensive linemen off, that's ability to affect the quarterback area. I think he's only just beginning in his ability as a pass rusher. He's been a dominant, dominant force, dominant run force. I think (defensive line coach) Mike Phair, coming over from the Colts, will do a great job of developing him as a pass rusher. He's a guy that allows us to go three-down, four down, he can be the nose, he can be a three technique, he's even gone out and can be a five technique. Big men that can move like him are versatile, so we can use him all across the front."
On draft night being different this year
Hurney: "Actually, really, it was very much the same. Matt and I have probably talked about 20 times a day over the phone and conference calls over the last few weeks communicating. We're on the same page philosophically. We put a lot of resources in free agency into our offense and we knew that coming into the draft that we had some holes to fill on defense. He was a guy that I remember Matt and I met with him at the Senior Bowl, and when he walked out of the room we just both shook our heads and said wow. I don't think either one of us at that point thought that we'd have the opportunity to get him, but I think that he is a really good piece to add to our defense and start building our defense. We did the same thing, we did all the scenarios, there was nothing that happened that would have been a surprise. We talked about what players were there we would take, what players we would trade back for if there was a group, and it was just as smooth as it could go."
On trade calls
Hurney: "We had some calls before and during, but really the way it fell, I think for a lot of teams, not only for us but for other teams behind us, I think they were kind of intrigued with the opportunities they had. When Derrick was there, I think Matt and I, we felt very strongly about taking him."
On COVID-19 challenges
Rhule: "It's a challenge that really we have with our entire team. In a typical world we'd get him here next week, get him to a rookie mini camp, begin to really get a look at his body and see the things that we can do to make sure he's strong and healthy heading into the season. Because we can't do that, obviously we have to stick to our plan, which is to do everything virtual, give him the best opportunity to learn the system. The one thing that slows rookie players down from playing and contributing is just understanding. Talking about the speed of the game, a lot of that is just mentally and knowing what to do. One of the great things about him was that we knew how serious he was about this. There are stories after stories of coaches talking about how he's one of the greatest practice players they've ever seen. We knew we needed to get somebody that was truly going to be a professional, that was going to work really hard on their own. I texted Marty this morning first thing and I said, 'Hey, I'm watching the bowl game.' Here's a guy that came back for his senior year, he's a consensus top 10 pick, he goes and plays in the bowl game. It's not like he's playing in the playoffs, he's playing against Minnesota, and he plays every snap, except for maybe a couple that's part of a normal rotation. There's a goal line stand where he's just playing as hard as he can, and to me, that's what we need right now in this time. We need guys that are dedicated to getting it done."
On best available and best fit
Hurney: "We had players that were close together, but he really was (the best player and fit). He was the guy that we thought fit us the best and was the best player for us as far as starting to put the pieces together on defense. So, this guy, he might not have the greatest stats in the world, but he helps other players make plays. You can't double team everyone on the defensive line, you watch his tape and he was doubled a lot. He's going to help our defensive lineman a lot, he's going to help our linebackers and we thought he was a great fit for us."
On defining defense
Rhule: "We'll be more of a base 4-3. You know the way the NFL's going, even the 3-4 teams, half they game they're in a four-down front anyway. To us, I thought Marty did a great job putting the ends together last year. You had Brian Burns and (Marquis) Haynes, picked up Stephen Weatherly who we think has a chance to be a really good starter. Now, you have KK (Short), we picked up Zach Kerr, so I think what we're trying to do is get guys who can be dominant forces. When you look at our ability to stop the run, that starts with D-Line, and I think that he'll help us a great deal."
On Brown having good character
Rhule: "At the start of the Senior Bowl when I left that meeting with him, I'm not going to say I was emotional, but I was touched by who he was. His spirit comes through. Then you talk to the coaches, you talk to all the people at Auburn and they can't talk enough about him. Even as he's getting drafted, I'm getting text message after text message of people seeing the things that he's done. He's a military family, the service that he provides to other people. There are people I know that I've worked with at Auburn, not even in football, but in sports information, there's not enough people that can't say enough about him and who he is. Make no mistake, he's a great, great, great, great player. Joe Brady had to go against him last year and said he was the number one guy he had to game for all season in the SEC. But it's also nice to have guys that love football and care about the community and care about being great people. I know there are lots of them in the draft, but Derrick Brown is definitely one of them."
On the Senior Bowl meeting
Hurney: "Really just his presence. You could tell his passion for the game, his serious approach. I think that when he left you just said, 'What a great young man.' You can see on tape what a great football player he is, but I think just his whole demeanor and his presence and his approach, he takes it seriously and you can tell it's very important to him. More than one thing he said, it was just the feeling you got when he stood up and left. It was like, wow this is a really good kid."
Rhule: "He kept talking about his D-Line coach and how much his D-Line coach meant to him. I really believe people that are successful in life usually are very grateful people. They're appreciative of the people who have been in their lives or appreciative of the opportunities. They don't look at everything as negative, they look at it as positive. When he talked about his defensive line coach, here's a guy getting ready to make a bunch of money, and he's talking about how much this man has impacted his life. A., I said that must be a great defensive line coach, Coach Garner, and at the same time, I also said this is someone who really gets it. It really kind of grabbed me."
On meetings with Brown and the inability to meet more
Hurney: "We were lucky in the sense that we were able to attend his Pro Day before the Pro Days were cancelled. I was down there and saw him workout. Matt and I had the chance to meet with him at the Senior Bowl, at the Combine, I met with him at the Pro Day, so we really had a lot of exposure to him. Every time you met with him, you just got a stronger and stronger feeling about him."
On Brown's Pro Day
Hurney: "Just really when you talk to his coaches, from Coach Malzahn to Coach Garner to Coach Steele, they just didn't have a negative thing to say about him. They talked about his passion and his ability, and you could just tell that he was one of the leaders of that team. They couldn't speak more highly of him, and that's what Pro Days are for. You get exposure to see him with his teammates, to see how he interacts with his teammates, to talk to coaches and it was all positive."
DT Derrick Brown
On his parents and how much it means for him to fulfill this dream tonight
They definitely pushed me growing up. That was my foundation. They instilled a lot of things into me, that's been my base from the beginning. I've always appreciated them and they've been there for me since day one obviously, and it's just been something that I've continued to carry on how they raised me to be.
On his mom working at Walmart and what he hopes to do for her
She loves what she does and it's a situation she wants to be in. Right now, with the times being what they are, she's protecting herself as best as she can. Going forward, that's going to be something that's up to her, what she wants to do after this.
On his takeaways from meeting with Panthers head coach Matt Rhule and general manager Marty Hurney
I took away that there's a shot I could be a Carolina Panther, and Lord willing, that's exactly how it ended up for me. I'm just very thankful for this opportunity that's been given to me.
On what sort of player he thinks he can be and what the Panthers are getting in him
Everyone wants to say I'm a run-stuffer, well, I do it all. You can go back and watch my tape. I had the most sacks. The league I played in was a lot compared to the NFL. It's just one of those things where I think I'm a three-down player, and I'm not here to sit there and try to make everybody like me, but I'm here to do what I do.
On when he felt got the feeling this week that the Panthers might take him
It was never until that phone call came in and they said they were going to turn in the ticket. Had hopes, but I don't even know man, it was uncertain and it became a lot more real when they said that I'm going to be a Carolina Panther.
How he improved in pass rushing as a senior and where he feels he can continue to improve
I think it starts with relentless effort. Then I think the next step is being able to put those tools in the bag. Being in shape, being in the highest playing level that you can be, giving my best effort going forward and just adding more tools to the tool bag when it comes time for me to be able to perform.
What led to his decision to come back for his senior year and then to play in the Outback Bowl
Coming back for my senior year, I wanted to finish my degree and I made the decision and never looked back on it. I never worried about getting hurt. I pushed through and just kept going and going and going, and trying to step up and be that leader that I always knew I could be. When it came time to decide to play in the Outback Bowl, it was never a question. My teammates elected me a captain so I was going to finish my season. They put me in a position to lead them and I was going to finish and not cut the job short.
On if any Panthers players have reached out to him
I don't even know yet. I've been on the social media tour so my phones are down. They keep buzzing, but I haven't really looked at them yet.
Explaining the nickname "Baby Barack"
It's not a bad name to have. It was one I got when I was the vice president and president of the student-athlete organization at Auburn. My teammates just kind of gave it to me because I had those positions.
What the night was like for him being at home with his family and his reaction when he saw the Panthers calling
You're sitting here in silence, and everyone is sitting around keeping high energy, positive energy and finally when that phone started vibrating on that table it's that now or never moment. You don't know who it is. I picked up the phone and it was the Carolina Panthers and I couldn't be more excited to be a Panther in my life. It's just a surreal moment. There's no words to describe it.
How he's been training
I'm just doing everything I was doing when I was playing college. As far as the running, getting into shape, just trying to stay in shape. I didn't have access to weights for a while, went ahead and bought some Home Depot buckets and filled them with sand. That's how I was getting my weight workout in. It's just about becoming adaptive and continuing to still get this work in.
How he's been preparing and training
I'm going to do whatever's asked of me. No matter what it is. In talking to coach Rhule, I haven't had an instance to talk yet, but I'm here to do whatever they ask if me. I feel like I can play all the way across the board. If that's what they want me to do, that's what I'm going to do.
Biggest highlight while at Auburn
Probably my sophomore year when we got to the SEC Championship and my senior year when we beat Alabama in the Iron Bowl. That was one hell of a way to leave Jordan-Hare.
On playing LSU and Joe Brady his senior year
We knew that they were the top dogs and we weren't going to come in there and let it go down and get beat up on. That's just the attitude we brought to the game and that's how we play ball. I'm just excited about that.
On the caliber of quarterbacks he'll be facing in the NFC South
They're guys I've watched for a long time and now I'm going to get a chance to go play ball against them and I'm going to try and give it my best.
On getting a feel for the NFL by playing Madden
There are a lot of things you pick up on Madden, and surprisingly not. I mean you learn a lot, us being "big boys" up front, we usually play the front, but actually learning the coverages and stuff, I think that's the coolest part about the game.
On his relationship with Cam Newton
I knew because of who he was at Auburn, and got to talk to him a few times when he came back. Nothing more than that really.
On being with family in a more intimate draft environment
Vegas may have gotten canceled, but you grow up and you want this experience with your family, so that didn't get taken away. Just being able to be sit here with my family, have everyone with me, it's a moment. It's unreal and you get to share that with them, the people that I love the most.