It’s an interesting story learning how two players with such contrasting professional football careers have landed in the same situation today - competing for a spot on each team’s respective 53-man roster. Knowing the experience of both football players, you might think one is more eager to make their team’s roster than the other, but don’t let the stats and playing experience (or lack thereof) fool you. Starks and Browner are equally determined because they share the same fortitude, determination, athleticism, football acumen, and similar traits because it’s in their genes, and they are cousins.
A recent addition to the Cardinals roster, Max Starks is a two-time national champion while playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers (2004 – ‘12), and for the San Diego Chargers and St. Louis Rams (2013). He is also the son of College Hall of Fame and NFL standout, Ross Browner, a former Cincinnati Bengals first round pick Defensive Lineman and Notre Dame Maxwell and Lombardi Award star player. Ross also shared the football field at Notre Dame with his equally successful brothers, Willard and Jimmy Browner. Stark’s menacing 6’8” 345 pound frame inherited from his father, Ross, helps keep defenders away from the quarterback, a job he did very well with the Pittsburgh Steelers for nine years that he is determined to display with the Cardinals.
The Texans, Keith Browner, Jr. is the son of former Tampa Bay Buccaneer first pick in 1984, Keith Browner, Sr. (OLB/DE, 1984 – ’86). Keith Sr. also played for the San Francisco 49rs (1987), former Los Angeles Raiders (1988), San Diego Chargers (1988) and nine years on various CFL and Arena Football teams (1989 - ’97). Unlike his three older brothers, Ross, Jimmy and Willard, Keith Sr. opted to attend USC for his college football career and to be close to his brother, Minnesota Vikings seven-time Pro Bowl and recent Vikings Ring of Honor inductee, Joey Browner (S, #47, 1983 - ’91).
Opposite of the fairytale career of Max Starks, Keith Browner, Jr. has never participated in a regular season NFL game. However, his athleticism, determination and work ethic has impressed the Texans coaching staff to earn him a spot on the Texans practice squad in 2012 and 2013. He is looking to change his fortune this pre-season to earn a spot on the roster and bragging rights with his cousin, father and uncles.
In addition to the obvious athleticism that Browner and Starks behold, they both share a common family trait, “never give up.” Browner is determined to reach his goal of playing in the NFL. He knows the odds are tough, but he also understands that if you work hard, stay focused and believe in yourself, it can happen. He is accustomed to adversity and being resilient when others may doubt. That has been “his story” since high school when he had difficulties adjusting to his size 15 feet at the mere height of 5’7” and could barely lift the bench press bar. However, Browner listened to his heart and not the critics, kept working, and never gave up. These days, Browner can be found bench pressing 400 pounds in the Texans weight room and has grown into his current size 16 shoes with an impressive 6’6 298 pound body frame.
Despite being released by the Steelers in 2012, a few injuries, and quick stints with the St. Louis Rams and San Diego Chargers (2013), Starks believes that he still has a lot to offer and he too never gave up his dream of returning to playing professional football again with his recent signing with the Arizona Cardinals.
Both Starks and Browner have never played on the field together, but they talk to each other frequently on the phone with Browner calling his cousin to get advice, guidance or to simply catch up on family news. They have more in common than a shared gene pool and football too. Both players have an unrelenting entrepreneurial spirit and nonprofit projects that keep them well-occupied. Stark’
The Texans vs. Cardinals game is the beginning of the professional football pre-season, but for the two cousins, Max Starks and Keith Browner, Jr., it’s a long-awaited family reunion and another chapter in the book of the 'First Family of Football.'