Anyone who interacted with Earnest Brown IV on Saturday could sense the palpable excitement he had about beginning his NFL career with the Rams.
Fans heard it listening to audio of the phone calls from general manager Les Snead, head coach Sean McVay and defensive coordinator Raheem Morris shared on the team's Twitter account. Media members saw it with the big smile flashed across his face during his post-selection video conference. His sister, mom, brother-in-law, two groups of family friends and niece and nephews who joined him for the big day most certainly felt it through presumed hugs and high-fives they shared with the 6-foot-4 1/2, 270-pound Northwestern defensive lineman.
"I'm the happiest man alive right now," Brown said. "You have no idea right now."
Joining the NFL's reigning top-ranked defense and teaming up with reining NFL Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald in itself is rewarded for any prospect. Even more so, though, for Brown, especially when taking his journey into account.
Brown did not become a starter for Northwestern until his senior season in 2020, spend those first three seasons as a reserve. He was one of 13 true freshman to see action for the Wildcats in 2017, appeared in 14 games as a sophomore in 2018, then was limited six games due to injuries as a junior in 2019.
It wasn't for a lack of effort. He had 22 total tackles, including 7.5 for loss (tied for second-most on the team) and four sacks (second-most) in 2018. But with other talented defensive linemen around him those first two seasons, he realized early on he would have to wait his turner. Getting stronger also helped, while the injury only motivated him more to capitalize when the opportunity finally came.
"Freshman year, I was a young pup, of course, 18 coming out at 255 (pounds)," Brown said. "I played almost every single game except for one, I played like five snaps a game. Then going into sophomore year, I was a little lighter. I was about 250 and (defensive end) Joe Gaziano, who is now with the Chargers, great player, led the team in sacks and was starting over me, and we had (defensive lineman) Samdup (Miller), another great one that is going in next year, he came back from injury. Had that happen, was great on my last stretch, my last half of the season. And then junior year came in and I was 270, gained a couple pounds and felt the best at that weight. I was stopped shortly because of injury, my pectoral injury, but then motivation happened, and my senior year came, I started and that's what happened."
The Rams took notice. During the pre-draft process, Brown said he talked with defensive line coach and run game coordinator Eric Henderson "almost every week."
"We just kept in good contact, probably the best relationship out of everybody and I appreciate him for believing in me," Brown said. "I appreciate the Rams for believing me and I will put forth the work every single day when I get to the Rams' facility."
Brown would mention being the "happiest man alive" twice more during his video conference, though no one could blame him if it happened with greater frequency. And if his attitude and background wasn't enough of an indication, he's ready to get to work.
"Like I said, I'm going to say this the whole day, the happiest man alive," Brown said. "Y'all had, well now I can say we, we had the best defense the last year, coming up and I can just put some more on that as well and learn after some defensive linemen from the Rams, it's the best feeling in the world, especially (playing alongside) Aaron Donald."
Take a look at photos of defensive lineman Earnest Brown IV from his time at Northwestern.