If you asked Philander Browder to classify himself as a football player, his answer would be very simple.
“I’m an athlete.”
Browder was born in Birmingham, Alabama the oldest of four children. At the time of his birth, his father was a drug dealer in Birmingham. At the age of three, his father turned his life around and became a pastor.
“My father is my greatest inspiration. He turned his life around for his kids when I was little and he was and is a great Dad. He loves us and takes great care of us. He’s my role model,” said Browder.
His father put him and his brother in basketball at an early age. They played in the travel leagues of Alabama as well as AAU. Growing up, that was all Browder knew. In Birmingham, basketball was the dominant sport. It wasn’t until he and his family moved to Prattville, Alabama, where his father started a church, that he began playing football.
Browder began his football career in the ninth grade at Mabury High School. The coaches watched him on the hard courts with the basketball team and were impressed by his speed and athletic ability.
“I started off as a running back and played a little wide receiver. My sophomore year I played a little more wide receiver and then my junior year I basically played all wide receiver,” said Browder.
Following his junior season, Browder was selected to the All-State squad at receiver and was primed for an even better senior season to try to vault himself into the Division I football limelight.
Prior to the season, Mabury got a new head coach and with that he brought in a new offense. Since it was an option-run offense, Browder was rarely thrown the ball and was used as a blocker on offense. That’s when Browder made the switch to cornerback.
“I just wanted to be in the best possible position to help the team. They needed me at cornerback so I went and played corner. It was my first ever season playing corner and I did pretty well,” said Browder.
“Pretty well” is an understatement. Browder managed to snag seven interceptions and was named to the All-State team as a cornerback, not a wide receiver. It was after his senior year that the offers came in for Browder.
Browder received offers primarily from Division II schools. Tuskegee, Alabama State, and West Alabama were all high on his list. After visiting Tuskegee and getting absorbed in the winning tradition, he signed with the Golden Tigers on signing day.
Recruited and redshirted his true freshman year as a corner, Philander came into his redshirt freshman season as a wide receiver after a number of the wide receivers were listed academically ineligible.
“I had a week to learn the playbook. Once I had the playbook down, everything clicked for me and it all just felt so natural. I was born a wide receiver so switching back wasn’t hard,” said Browder.
After starting at wide receiver his redshirt freshman, sophomore, and junior seasons, Browder was ready make his senior year the best ever and join the likes of Jacoby Jones in being picked up by the NFL.
Unfortunately, prior to his senior year he sprained his ankle and was hobbled by it all season long. After having a less-than stellar senior season, Browder has super-charged his training in preparation for his shot at the NFL.
“I’ve been training with D1 Training in Birmingham. I was training with Matt Barkley for a while. I was running routes and he was throwing me the ball. He’s a good quarterback,” said Browder.
This past Monday and Tuesday, Browder participated in pro-days at UAB and Tuskegee. At both pro days, he ran a sub-4.40 40 yard dash. His fastest was a 4.38 at UAB. Despite unfavorable field conditions at Tuskegee, he still managed a 4.39 in the 40.
A number of different NFL scouts were in attendance and some even spoke to Browder after the workouts. According to Browder, they had nothing but great things to say and he and his agent are confident that he will land in the NFL somewhere.
Later this month, Browder will be participating in the NFL Regional Combine in Atlanta on March 16th before heading to Daytona Beach for the Florida vs Nation All-Star game on March 23rd.
In case football does not work out, Browder has a solid back-up plan.
“My mother gave up finishing her degree so she could have and take care of me. I’m getting my degree in Sales and Marketing and Business Management this May to honor her. If football does not work out, I want to a sports agent or a coach someday,” said Browder.
For Philander Browder, football is his first priority. If the NFL does not come calling, he plans on trying out for the CFL. For Browder, he has one simple message for NFL teams seeking a wide receiver.
“Anything is possible. Jacoby Jones came from Wayne College (an HBCU school). I’m an athlete. I can make your team better and I’m a go getter. I’m coachable. I listen to my coaches and do whatever they ask of me.”