NFL Draft Q&A: Shakel Brown, IDL, Troy

By Kieran Horne

After crushing his pro day recently, former Troy Trojan Shakel Brown is flying up draft boards. With less than four weeks until the big event, guest writer Kieran Horne was invited to sit down for a ‘Q&A’ with the defensive tackle draft prospect:

Shakel Brown: Pro Day Stats:

Shakel Brown Relative Athletic Score

Shakel Brown, defensive tackle out of Troy. How are you my man! First of all, congrats on an epic pro day performance, one of the best I’ve seen.

“Yes sir!”

We’ve got your numbers listed here; how do you account for these stats man, this is insane!

“Well I would definitely say it’s from the training, from my strength coaches, coming in I was already kinda prepared, but I definitely had great training down in Tampa Florida with Josh Cooper, down at Cooper Sports Performance, so i definitely give it to those guys you know for preparing me and having me ready to put up the numbers that I knew I could do.”

Genuinely impressive! I got the Bengals hat on right now, hopefully manifesting that you’ll come play defensive tackle for us but before we get on to that, and how much you’ve just destroyed every one at the college level, we’ve gotta talk a little bit about your journey there. You obviously attended junior college, what was that experience like?

“Oh man, it was a great experience. You know it’s very humbling, you know it’s definitely dark times going through that, through the ranks of JUCO. There’s times where you wanna give up but you know you have to keep pushing. Sometimes you don’t know when your next meal will be, you don’t know where you’ll lay your head sometimes, but I was lucky to get to my last JUCO, Itawamba [MS], where it was a great opportunity for me. It was a great school – I never had to worry about any outside things. All I had to do was really focus on school and football, and I really thank God for me being able to get there. But it was definitely a great experience, I learned some things, learned how to work hard there and prepared me for the next step.”

Obviously a lot of people are familiar with some JUCO stories. We see guys like Cam Newton, Josh Allen, and then ‘Last Chance U’ really kinda blew up people’s visibility of Junior Colleges. Do you think that experience gives you an advantage over say players who’ve gone straight up to D1 or Power 5 because you have that hunger in you, and you’ve had to work maybe harder than some people? 

“I definitely would say it would make me a little more hungry than most guys that come straight out of high school. I’m not saying everything was given to them, but there’s no doubt my journey wasn’t as easy as it was for them. They come straight in with the meal plan and the housing and the stuff they might take for granted, whereas sometimes I had to figure that out on my own. Sometimes my parents had to send a little more money my way than they would than they would have if I was on a full scholarship. But it definitely gave me that extra hunger, that incentive to keep going.”

Transferring to Troy

So let’s get to the little bit of your time in Troy. What was it like when you first arrived on campus and saw the difference from your previous stops? 

“It was great man. I was just happy to be able to like have actual facilities to use, to be able to go and actually get different kinds of food. I didn’t have to eat just the cafeteria food, so it was just amazing. And then I found out that we get money for going to school, like stipend checks for the cost of living! They’d give me a rent check, allow me to choose where i want to live etc, it was a great thing. When I came on a visit there was actually really no one in town – it was late December so everybody had gone home for the break, and i still decided to come here because the facilities were awesome.Nowhere else was on the same level. And this is home. I feel good, I feel comfortable here, they make me feel like family. They don’t even know me from a can of paint, so it was kind of easy to choose Troy over anybody else.”

Those facilities have helped you become a standout performer on the Trojans’ defense. So let’s get on to that a little bit; what do you think your biggest strength is as an interior defensive lineman? 

“It would definitely be my point of attack. I feel like I can stop the run very well – and as you can see within my stats, you know I developed my pass rush since I’ve been at Troy. You know you can always get better at everything, and I always have the mindset that I’m never the best at anything. But for sure I feel like run defense is one of my biggest attributes.”

That pass rush has definitely developed! I’ve seen a couple of the sacks you’ve laid out; one, I think it was against ULM, a strip sack where you just tossed the quarterback – I’d be petrified seeing you across the line of scrimmage! But obviously you’re a phenomenal run stopper. Is there something you train specifically to help you with your power of attack, or is that just come from the Troy’s coaching staff getting you ready for every single game?

“It’s definitely more so the coaching, because as a group we constantly harp on about using hands and striking – that constant reinforcement. We try to get our hands on the man and shed as quick as we can so we can get to the ball, but the main thing we focus on is getting your hands on the right spot. You always have a key spot for every play, so knowing where to put your hands on each rep, embracing the coaching in that regard, has really helped. But it also comes along with strength training as well. I was one of the strongest people on the team – and that really allowed me to have a good pop and a good first attack coming out.”

I mean just from the bench press reps alone you might be one of the strongest prospects at this point. Who do you model your game after? Obviously there’s a ton of great defensive tackles in the league and they all play slightly differently. Is there somebody you model your game after specifically, or do you just try and be yourself out there?

“I more so try to be myself, but coming into the season I knew I had to pick up on my sacks. So I really studied Malik Collins, watched a lot of Cowboys and then Texans film. I watched a lot of tape just to see his different movements, cause we’re kind of the same build and I knew I could add some of his elements to my game. He’s got a great spin move – we weren’t allowed to do that so i never did the spin! – but little things like his quickness. Everyone will tell you about learning from Aaron Donald, Chris Jones and I’m no different; you try to take bits and pieces from every single great d-tackle. But ultimately, I’ll have my own style of play. Just like they say ‘oh he plays like Chris Jones’, I want them to say ‘oh he plays like Shakel’.”

Making Memories

You played basketball at high school, and were pretty good by all accounts! What is it you think you’ve taken from other sports to help improve your game out on the gridiron?

“It’s definitely footwork, because in basketball you gotta have great footwork. You also gotta have hand eye coordination for basketball because you have to be able to catch the ball and move around, be able to jump because I could jump pretty high for my size, and things like that. So it certainly helps my athleticism. And you might not expect this, but just having that aggression – because in basketball, certainly playing the three and the four like I did, you can’t be soft down there! So I came in with pretty good feet, athleticism and tenacity. And then I also played tight end which further helped my movement. And I think it shows up on tape.”

What’s your favourite moment on the field at Troy?

“It would definitely be winning the conference championship last year. We had worked so hard, I was here with all my guys. When we lost to App State I kinda knew that was a turning point within the program; we had a new head coach but all the players were the same. We lost a couple of guys of course, but really the core guys were really still there, we had Carlton Martial, KJ Robinson – we still had these guys who were pivotal players on the team. Getting that conference championship and going out that way was special; I wasn’t able to play in the big game because I was injured, but it still was a moment where you shed a tear. All the hard work that the older guys put in, it paid off at the end of our careers – and that was definitely something that really touched me for sure.”

From JuCo to winning the Sun Belt; an amazing journey and something that can never be taken away from you. How did it feel looking back on how far your career has come?

“It felt great man.- No matter where you come from you can always come out on top no matter what. Come from the bottom, different walks of earth, it doesn’t matter. You can be a champion. Looking back – I’ll always be able to say that in 2022, I was a conference champion with the Troy Trojans. It feels pretty special.”

It’s an incredible journey that has had ups and down. Was there a moment where you ever questioned if football was right for you, or did you ever have a doubt that this is what you wanted to do?

“There was a question back in 2021, it definitely was a question. I lost my mother around that time, things just really weren’t going well in my life. Even before my mom passed there was a time I felt like I wanted to be done with everything, go get a job and just start a regular life. There were moments when me and my d-line coach, we wouldn’t see eye to eye, and with everything else it was tough. I just didn’t really know if football was for me – but I knew my mom was my biggest fan. She wouldn’t want me to quit so I definitely had to finish it out. Now, looking back, I’m glad I did that for her. It was all worth it.”

She would be proud! Next stop is the NFL. The draft is coming up – is there a team you hope you can go to or are you just happy to be anywhere in the pro’s?

“I’m definitely just happy to play man. I’m blessed for anything you know. Of course, most kids have a favourite team growing up, but I really didn’t. I always kinda liked every team. Wherever I go I’m definitely going to be a professional. Even when i was playing basketball i would say i was gonna be a professional at some sport. I never really said which sport, I just knew I wanted to be a professional athlete. I would write it down on my papers – basketball, football, ‘wannabe professional’ or whatever. It didn’t matter to me. I’m just grateful I had the ability to let football give me that opportunity. God willing, I’ll hear my name called that weekend – and wherever it comes from I’m ready to call home. I’m not picky at all.”

After your journey through the JuCo ranks, how did it feel to get your first sack at the D1 level?

“It felt great! I wish I could have gotten one in 2020 when I first got here, but I did get a touchdown in 2020 so that’s better than a sack. It definitely felt great though man, it was amazing after everything that i had been through. After the game I cried because i always knew i could do it, i always knew i could be great at this game. I never doubted that whatever I dreamt to do in this sport, I could do it. And then being able to start getting sacks and tackles, it just felt great to be able to play free and realise that dream.”


You alluded to it earlier, but one of the best sights in football is a big man getting his hands on the football and getting in the endzone. What was that touchdown moment like for you?

“It was great man! It was definitely unexpected, but the ball literally fell into my hands, so I was like ‘ok let’s get this!’. I was like 20 yards out, so it was pretty simple really, but it was amazing.”

You were moving man! How did it feel having such a big game against UTSA in the bowl game?

“So I had to make up for missing the rest of the Arkansas game where I got hurt. I strained my back, and then I missed all of the championship game, so in my mind I was ready to reimburse for two games. And of course, it was my last time playing in front of the Troy fans so you know I was ready to put on a show – I wanted to leave everything I had out on that field. Those fans had been so good to me, I wanted their final memory of Shakel Brown to be a good one. I watched a lot of film that week, I knew things that were coming before they came, and I just capitalised on it. And I hate that they didn’t give me my second sack! They gave me a TFL for it instead. But it was still one of my best performances.”

They could’ve at least given you a .5 for that I think!

“Something man, something!”

You were a man on a mission that game, as you were throughout your Troy career. Are there any particular coaches you give credit to for helping you hone your game the past three years, or was it kind of a collaboration between a number of staff?

“I’ve definitely benefited from working with a selection of coaches. Coach (David) Mackey was one that really helped me. Like I said previously, I don’t mind admitting there were moments that me and some previous coaches, we didn’t see eye to eye. They thought I was gonna be one of those problems they’d have to worry about, and I wanted to show them that I’m not that guy. But the new staff, they told me from day one that – watching the film – they knew how great I could be and how well I could do. They never gave up on me, and taught me how I could be a better person and teammate. So having that consistent message coming from different coaches, It felt really good. But Coach Mackey as well as our DC Coach Shiel Wood, guys like that, they never really turned their back on me. Having people like that who could push you in ways to make you want to run through a brick wall for them – that is real coaching. I’m thankful for them.” 

Talk to me the importance of the film room, your habits, and how you use it to your advantage:

“Film is crucial. You can’t skimp on studying your opponent. I like to watch film so I can be prepared ahead of time, so if the guard plays this way, or tackles go this way, I’m ready for it. Again, credit to the coaching and culture; it’s kind of a thing we do anyway as a whole D-line group. But I like to watch extra so I can know some of the more detailed things. Like if a guy’s light on his feet, or if this foot is slightly back, or if the running back is offset then they’ll run this play – those little tips help me, and it allows me to help the team. I can signal to them, relay information to them real quick, let them know if it’s run or pass. These marginal gains make the difference, and it’s a good discipline to have when you’re hoping to make it to the next level.”

Maturity & Leadership

Let’s talk about college life a little. As a man from Miami, Florida, what was it like living in Alabama the last three years?

“It was definitely different! But the thing is, I was at JuCo in a small city in Kansas first, then i went to Fulton in Mississippi, so I had been in small places in the south for a while. Troy is another smaller city, just 17,000 people, so it was more of the same. Sure, coming from a huge city like Miami when I first left home was a big adjustment at first, but I’m a relaxed guy. I don’t really do much, don’t need much to be happy.”

Did that kind of help you focus on solely football being in these kind of smaller places where there is really nothing to do besides watch film and practice?

“Definitely. Looking back to when I was younger, I guess if I had landed in a bigger city I would have done more. There’s more distractions, you’re young and you’ve got more exposure. But now as I’ve matured, I could play anywhere and it wouldn’t matter where I’m at. Honestly, I could be in Las Vegas and it wouldn’t be a concern. I don’t have any bad habits and I spend my down time just chilling. Small town, big city, it’s no concern for me – and it’s not something an NFL team will have to worry about either.”

You talk a little there about how you’ve matured during your college career, presumably both on and off the field. Did you feel a bit like you grew into a leader on the defense in that regard?

“Oh I definitely did. Coming into Troy, my first two years I didn’t really feel like I contributed much in that way. My relationship with the coaching staff, we didn’t have that trust.I wasn’t really a vocal guy either, and to be fair I’m not that vocal even now. But this past season I felt like I did a great job leading by example. I showed the guys I’m here to work hard, I did two-a-days and my teammates all saw the extra work i would put in. I was 100% in every aspect. Going extra hard doing whatever I had to do, whether it was practice or gameday. Nobody could say I was half assing it. Coaches and teammates didn’t need to ask; they knew that Shakel was giving everything, all the time. I think that definitely rubbed off on some of the younger guys, and contributed to our success.”

Going back to that loss to App State which you describe as the moment your championship-winning season changed, I guess that was where your leadership and more team-orientated mindset paid off?

“That was definitely a turning point in the program after that game right there. I’ve never beaten App State since being here and being so close to that, it made the whole team even closer. That loss right there, seeing how bad we wanted to win that game and how much it meant to all the players and staff, even freshmen who didn’t even play, everyone on the team was mad about that loss. So that right there, we just bonded together. And you just knew that, going forward, every man on this team – regardless of their role – they were going to give 110%. It was the coaches, the veteran leaders like me, and the bond we had created as a team. That trip home from App State, we agreed as brothers that we would never feel like that again. And we didn’t.”

Do you think that loss did more for you than a win would have on that day?

“Oh for sure. I feel like that loss right there is really the main reason we won the rest of our games. A win would have been great of course – and I still feel like we would still have had a great season. But for me right there, that adversity helped light a fire under us. Looking back, I wouldn’t swap that loss for anything.”

Looking Forward

So as we come into draft season do you have any draft memories that you remember that remind you how great the draft is and how it changes lives?

“So I don’t really have any memorable draft memories, but I always watch ‘Hey Rookie’ every year. And I enjoy watching the guys tell their stories; some guys were rich, some poor, some came from decent homes, others not so much. For me, it would definitely be the prospects whose stories are similar to mine that I loved the most; so guys who went to junior college or guys who had to leave a school for some reason, or maybe they got hurt, or they had dark times like I did. I’m inspired by those guys you know who can overcome adversity, live out their dreams and change their family lives financially. Not really a specific person, but just anybody who has been blessed to live out their dreams of being a professional athlete – which I hope to be soon.”

I’m still rooting for the Bengals to give you a shot dude! So this is a question I have to ask every athlete: how do you want to be remembered?

“Oh that’s simple. I wanna be remembered as one of the best to play the position. There’s a lot of greats, and lots of due respect to those guys, but I wanna be in that group. Coming from a smaller school we have guys like DeMarcus Ware; he came from here and I want to be held in the same esteem as he is. And part of getting to that stage is, I wanna be known as a hard worker. I fear being the guy who you have to force to get ready. I strive to be self-motivated, a guy who’s always the first one in and the last one out. The last twelve months, I have lived this mindset. Just like Troy did in 2022, I want to be known as a guy you can depend on.”

Shakel, thanks for your time today. All the best the rest of the way, and we can’t wait to see you playing on Sundays – hopefully in those Bengal stripes!

“Thank you very much for having me!”

Kieran Horne


Based in Cincinnati, Kieran covers college football and the NFL over on his YouTube channel @KieranHorneCFB, as well as covering the NFL Draft for multiple outlets.


A huge thank you to Shakel for taking the time to talk to us. Everyone at The Touchdown wishes him well in his future career.