FRISCO, Texas – Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr invested something in Anthony Brown.
The free agency departures of the Cowboys' 2016 starting cornerbacks could have been a bit of a shock for Brown. Sixteen years of cornerback experience was leaving the locker room, after all, and the Cowboys' chances of repeating last season's success hinges on Brown's ability to step into a bigger role. No one could blame him if the pressure had caught him off guard.
While still Cowboys, Claiborne and Carr invested mentorship into the rapid development of their rookie teammate. Both veterans had been around the league long enough to know that Brown's successful stints stepping in for injured players only increased the chances Claiborne and Carr might be wearing another jersey soon.
"We talked about it even before the season ended last year," Brown said. "They let me know just to be on alert of what could go down, what's possible. So I was already expecting something to happen."
Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott were the rare rookies able to step into full-time starting jobs in their first year. But Brown showed tremendous promise in multiple starts, and the Cowboys' moves suggest they are willing to similarly invest in his future.
"Once [Claiborne and Carr] left, I was like, 'Okay, it's time,'" Brown said. "At some point you got to step up and show that you can be the No. 1 guy. So why not now?"
Besides quarterback, cornerbacks might face more public scrutiny than any other position. There's a big difference between the feel-good story of a sixth-round pick filling in and the intensity of being the starter for the most recognizable team in sports. But sometimes one year behind two good veterans is enough.
"[Carr and Claiborne] always made sure I was alert to everything," Brown said. "I still talk to them now. They let me know what to look for and what to expect coming up. I'm prepared for it. Once it happens, it won't be new to me."
So if Brown wasn't shocked by the departure of two veteran cornerbacks, he was equally unsurprised by the Cowboys' decision to draft three new ones. If the rookie cornerbacks are going to succeed, they'll need a veteran to show them the ropes. Strangely, some of that responsibility has fallen to the 23-year-old Brown.
"I went from rookie to veteran overnight," Brown said. "I'm going to embrace the role and make the guys look up to me."
Brown said he hasn't had much one-on-one time with the rookie cornerbacks yet, but he plans to sit down and talk to them about what they should expect. So far, he's liked what he's seen from them.
"They're real smart," Brown said. "They picked up on the playbook pretty quick. They came out here, they're competing already and I like that. They have to keep building on that."
Brown, who said the game has slowed down for him drastically compared to last year's OTAs, knows that in the NFL you only get treated like a rookie for one year. He also knows if you want to succeed, you'll grow up a lot faster than that.
"We'll get better, get those guys up to speed and we'll be ready," Brown promised.