When LaMark Brown thought about a potential future in the NFL, he thought it would come as a wide receiver. However, possessing the size to potentially hold up as a blocker in the NFL and receiver's hands, the Falcons targeted the college free agent rookie as a tight end project.
Needless to say Brown, who impressed during OTAs as a pass-catching tight end and has continued that play into training camp, is on a learning curve.
"I was more of a wide receiver in college," Brown said. "I never lined up in the dirt and never really had to block linebackers and D-linemen, so it's definitely a change, but I've still got to keep working on the little things to make me better."
With the starting tight end job squared away with Tony Gonzalez on the roster and last year's backup, Michael Palmer, continuing to be reliable, there is a competition in camp for the final tight end position. Brown is among three college free agent tight ends on the camp roster, joining Tommy Gallarda, who spent time last year on Atlanta's practice squad roster.
Although the backup tight ends are often referred to as "blocking tight ends," Brown says the coaching staff has told him that he must be well-rounded, demonstrating an ability to block in addition to catching passes.
"Everybody has to be able to do everything," Brown said. "You can't just be a pass catcher as a tight end. You've got to be able to block, help in the run and pass protect. It's more about becoming an all-around better player at the tight end spot and being able to run routes and protect and run block."
Despite learning a new position, Brown sees the chance with the Falcons as an opportunity to not only get into the NFL, but also learn a new position and make himself even more valuable. Blocking is what he is working the hardest to improve and with a wide-open competition going on in camp, he feels his pass catching ability can help him catch on with the Falcons if he can improve on the all-important blocking phase.
Second-string tight end Michael Palmer joined the team in 2010 as a college free agent and made the final 53-man roster out of camp. It's clear the Falcons will turn to a similar situation to fill their final roster spot at the position this season. Brown as it currently stands has as much of a shot as anyone else at tight end.
And of course, he's taking every chance he can get to soak up any left-over knowledge about greatness from Gonzalez, a future Hall of Famer.
"It's a great experience," Brown said. "You don't get to learn from a living legend all the time. He's one of the greats of the game. To be in meetings with him every day and come out here and have him help me with things I'm struggling with, it's really a blessing to have him around."