Talented, troubled, and terminated: three Ts that sum up the rise, plateau, and fall of Antonio Tavaris Brown, one the most talented wide receivers in NFL history. Brown survived a homeless and neglected youth through the only salvation he knew—football. But his headline-making antics and alleged criminal behavior have left Brown watching from the sidelines. Will we ever AB in the NFL again? Here are 50 facts about the rollercoaster life and career of Antonio Brown.
1. In Their Blood
Antonio Brown was born to teenaged parents in Northwest Miami during a hot July summer in 1988. His dad, Eddie Brown, became a football star with the Arena Football League—in 2006, Eddie was voted the greatest Arena Football player ever. Brown’s younger brother, Desmond, played college-level football with the University of Pittsburgh Panthers.
2. Bo Knows
The closest thing to a father figure in Brown’s early years was athletic trainer Idi “Bo” Smith. For all the glamor that Liberty City lacked, it was bursting with athletic talent. Smith wasn’t nurturing, but he saw a fire in the physically unimpressive Brown, and he trained Brown hard. “I broke other guys down,” Smith said, but Brown could take it and then some. Brown had a path in front of him—but his struggles were just beginning.
3. Lonely Liberty
After getting kicked out of the house, a teenaged Brown became more acquainted with instability. For months, he went from crashing on friends’ sofas for a night or two, to shacking up in cheap motels if he could scrounge up some change, to hiding out in parked cars during long nights. Brown felt angry and abandoned, and his high school grades hit rock bottom. But for Brown, school was the least of his worries…
4. Nameless Faceless Places
Considering Brown’s current turmoil, his life could have been worse—and it could have ended far too soon. As a troubled youth, Brown had several friends who were active in a local gang called the John Does. The gang controlled the area’s crack trade, and Brown has said that every party he attended as a teenager “ended in a shootout.”
5. What’s Hiding Behind That Grin
It seems that Antonio Brown used his best feature to mask his troubled past. A childhood football coach, Tyrone Hilton, remembers that Brown “always had that smile.” In 2018, an interviewer noted that Brown—decked out in heavy gold jewelry and jaw-dropping designer threads—had a “sunbeam smile…strong enough to melt your phone.” But there’s pain behind that smile…
6. A David Among Goliaths
While Brown’s emotional health is questionable, his athletic talent and mental toughness are undeniable. In 2018, his peers voted him the second-best player in the NFL’s Top 100 list. At his pinnacle as an NFL wide receiver, he was earning $17 million per year. And Brown is a David in this league of Goliaths: only 5ft 10 ⅛, and a lightweight 181 lbs.
7. The 3 Rs Nearly Ruined Him
In 2005, Brown received props for his outstanding high school athletics—he was awarded athlete of the year at the Miami-Dade Gridiron Classic. But off the field, he was an academic failure. His grades were so bad, he was denied entry into Florida State University. In 2006, Brown landed at North Carolina Tech to take prep classes, but he still had a bumpy road ahead of him.
8. Thank You, Zach
Antonio Brown has one man to thank for his professional football career: Zach Azzanni. Azzanni, a coach, first met Brown when he was in high school. He saw Brown’s spark in their short meeting, so when he heard that Brown had been kicked out of FIU, he gave the young man a call. He offered Brown one last chance—and the football star took it and ran.
9. No U-Haul Required
In 2007, Azzanni was involved with the football program at Central Michigan University. He got Brown enrolled at Central Michigan on a scholarship, and he managed a walk-on wide receiver slot for Brown on the football team. Brown had no winter clothes, arriving in freezing cold Michigan on a bus with everything he owned in one bag. But Azzanni believed in this troubled young man.
Azzanni and his wife helped Brown adjust to his new life. Brown soon he became like a part of their family—and their faith paid off in spades.
10. The Coach Came Around
The tough-sounding Butch Jones was the coach of Central Michigan’s football team in 2007. Jones was initially unimpressed with Brown’s stature—until Brown hit the field and showed what he could do. Jones played Brown in 14 matches his first year, and Brown won the prestigious Mid-American Conference Freshman of the Year award.
11. Antonio’s Secret Lair
Coach Jones also discovered Brown’s extreme off-field game prep. After another player asked him, “Coach, have you seen Antonio’s apartment?” Jones visited Brown, and couldn’t believe what he saw: Brown had multiple laptops going to study simultaneous NFL plays, and his stairs were duct-taped for makeshift speed ladder drills. Brown had gotten his shot, and he wasn’t about to waste it.
12. He’s More High Maintenance Than a Show Poodle
Antonio Brown was a star almost from the get-go—but his attitude was there from the very start as well. Jones recalls Brown’s high maintenance personality almost fondly. During Brown’s freshman season, Jones said that Brown kept bugging him for field action. When Jones gave in, Brown played like magic. As he strutted off the field, Brown muttered, “See? I told you. Give me the ball.”
Jones was stunned by the attitude—but also impressed with Brown’s intensity.
13. Welcome to Normal
For a kid who masked his pain under a smile, overworking his mind and body on the football field, Brown recognized—and genuinely appreciated—the friendly, neighborhood atmosphere of Central Michigan. He began doing well at his college classes, and he felt at home somewhere for the first time in his life. “I loved it,” Brown has said. But it couldn’t last forever…
14. Reunited and It Feels Not Good
Antonio Brown had no clue that his father Eddie was in the stands for most of his college games. Eddie finally got the nerve up to approach his son after another winning game, but a shocked Brown just walked away. Months later, they aired it out in a Detroit hotel room, where Brown tearfully screamed, “Did you know I’ve been on the streets?”
15. You Do the Math
Football analysts were divided on Brown’s potential during the 2010 NFL Draft. His performance at the NFL combine was viewed as unremarkable, and he was selected late in the draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Brown ended up picking the jersey number 84. When asked why, he explained: “Eight times four is 32. Thirty-two teams looked past me…so every time I go out there it’s a little added motivation.”
Pretty soon, he’d take that motivation and make every team who passed him over look like complete fools.
16. In His Own Time Zone
His fellow Steelers players have acknowledged that Brown was so habitually late for practices and meetings during his seasons with Pittsburgh that it became somewhat legendary. Former Steelers offensive lineman Doug Legursky said that no one could get mad at Brown, because he always showed up late “with a big smile on his face…”
17. Past the First Spending Yard Line
A Pittsburgh media outlet interviewed Brown after he’d been with the Steelers for several years. They asked him what he’d blown his money on after being drafted into the NFL. Brown said he’d been cautious with his money at first, based on advice from his handlers. But when he worked out his second contract, he went all out…on a 2012 Rolls Royce.
Apparently, Brown took a liking to the car: this started off a tradition of Brown rolling up to training camp in a different custom Rolls every single year.
18. Straight Pimping ‘Til Kickoff
Antonio Brown’s tardiness made everyone jittery on NFL game days. While the other Pittsburgh players waited for kickoff in full dress, Brown often strolled in with minutes to spare, rocking a mink coat and that killer attitude. Brown quickly came to think of himself as invincible. His contract was restructured three times, until everyone considered Brown “uncuttable.” This lasted for a few years—but soon, Brown would pay the price for his antics.
19. Clash of the Personalities
Brown and Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger mixed record-breaking on-field production with an explosive, love-hate relationship off-field. Steelers receiver Markus Wheaton said that Ben and Brown were always setting each other off. But still, Brown kept a signed photo of Roethlisberger in his locker with a message from the QB that read, “We are unstoppable.”
Brown and Roethlisberger were one of the league’s great duos—but like so many legendary partnerships, it could only last so long before going up in flames.
20. What a Gas
Antonio Brown hired Dr. Victor Prisk to work with him in 2018. Prisk’s specialty is diet and fitness, and Brown had a video filmed of Prisk conducting a body fat test on him. The video went viral online after Brown gleefully admitted he’d been passing gas on Prisk. Prisk later called it “childish,” and revealed Brown hadn’t paid him for his services.
21. We Need a Real-Life Jerry Maguire
Drew Rosenhaus was the sports agent who saw Brown through the early glory days into the dark and ugly ones—but no more. He did write a letter to the NFL Players Association, saying he’d like to represent Brown again if Brown accepted counseling, but in the end, dropped him. Brown went on to hire Ed Wasielewski as his new agent.
Wasielewski famously co-created a 2015 reality show about NFL sports agents, fittingly called “The Agent.” Seem like the perfect guy to handle Brown’s antics.
22. Dude Twerks Like a Lady
Brown may have been a foul-mouthed football assassin with the Pittsburgh Steelers, but his touchdown salutes came off more like an exotic dancer. In 2016, the league penalized Brown for breaking out his twerk moves after scoring against the Redskins. Apparently, Brown’s “choreographed celebration” was way too suggestive.
23. And the Award for Most Drama Goes To…
After nearly a decade in the NFL, Brown’s career stats separated him from the rest of his peers. He recorded the most prolific stretch of any wide receiver in NFL history, topping 100 receptions and 1,200 yards receiving in his first six seasons as a Steeler. But Brown’s off-field drama started diminishing his career accomplishments.
24. Sometimes You Have to Be Anti-Social
In 2017, following the Steelers’ playoff win over the KC Chiefs, Brown violated NFL policy by secretly streaming the team’s post-game celebration—including a confidential rundown by Coach Mike Tomlin—on Facebook Live. The league fined Brown $10,000, a piddly figure considering later revelations that he’d signed a six-figure marketing deal with Facebook. But this was the beginning of the end—Brown’s antics were about to get a whole lot worse.
25. No Way to Start the Season
Things really started to fall apart in 2018. In October of that year, he was hit with a lawsuit for allegedly damaging a leased apartment—but that wasn’t even close to the worst of his crimes. He also allegedly tossed several items from the balcony, nearly crushing a toddler below. Then, in November 2018, Brown received a speeding ticket in Pittsburgh. He’d been clocked driving his Porsche at 55 mph over the limit. Pretty soon, these distractions off the field were about to bleed onto the field.
26. He Had a Blue Christmas That’s Certain
In December 2018, the media reported that Brown and Roethlisberger got into a heated dispute during team practice. Brown was absent for the remaining practices that week, and Pittsburgh deactivated him from their last Sunday game of the regular season. In February 2019, Brown posted a Twitter message that it was “time to move on.” The rest of the NFL was stunned—and saw an opportunity.
27. It Was a March Break
The Pittsburgh Steelers cut ties with Brown in March 2019, trading him to the Oakland Raiders for two lesser 2019 draft picks. Later, it was widely reported that the New England Patriots had offered the Steelers a first-round pick for Brown—but the Steelers were apparently biased about trading Brown to one of their closest rivals. However, they’d soon pay the price for their pride.
28. The Wizard of Odd
Antonio Brown’s signing bonus with the Raiders included a guaranteed $30 million. On day one of training camp, you might have seen him absurdly flaunting it—if you looked way up. Everyone at the training facility watched Brown floating in on a hot air balloon. There was only one problem: he couldn’t actually practice due to injury. The Raiders quickly realized that having Brown on the team was anything but simple…
29. Ice to See You
Superstar athletes like LeBron James famously use recovery methods like full-body cryotherapy. Each session lasts approximately three minutes, with the person standing in a chamber as the temperature drops to -166 degrees Fahrenheit. However, such low temperatures can be extremely dangerous, and very precise guidelines must be followed. Brown would learn that the hard way…
It’s vitally important to not be barefoot in a cryotherapy machine. Apparently, no one told Brown that—or he didn’t listen. He cold-blistered his feet so badly, he was put on the “non-football injury list.” The Raiders were far from impressed that their new star player was going to miss time for such a silly reason—but it turns out, frostbite was the least of their problems.
31. A Helmet Doesn’t Make the Man
Antonio Brown’s disastrous outing with the Raiders can be blamed on two things: his stubbornness, and an outdated football helmet. Brown dressed for training camp in a helmet model that he’d worn for ten years. But, the league had recently deemed that helmet as unsafe for players, so the Raiders told him to remove it. Brown, however, had a sneaky trick up his sleeve…
32. Who Do You Think You’re Fooling?
Brown was apparently furious about the helmet situation. It must have been a relief to see him at the next practice, wearing what looked like an official Raiders helmet. Until they looked closer…It turns out that Brown had his old helmet repainted to try and match the new one. After the league ruled against his helmet demands, Brown just quit practicing altogether.
33. Bad, Bad Mr. Brown
While September is a month for getting back to school, September 2019 saw Brown getting back to bad social media behavior. He posted a letter from the Raiders’ GM on his Instagram—meant to be private—outlining a $54,000 fine levied at him for missing too much training camp. Tempers were running high—but then Brown finally went too far. He and the GM got into a physical altercation on the practice field. Brown’s time with the Raiders was over before it even began.
34. Please Release Me, Let Me Go
After Brown got physical with the Raiders’ GM, the team fined him a substantial $215,000 for detrimental conduct—but that was pocket change compared to what happened next. This action also allowed them to void Brown’s $30 million signing bonus. Can you guess how Brown responded, based on past behavior? He immediately took to Instagram, posting, “I’m not mad at anyone…” with a veiled plea to be released. Hours later, the Raiders complied.
35. Back Where He Belonged
Just one day after the Raiders cut Brown loose, a surprising one-year deal was announced between Brown and the team that the Steelers had refused to trade him to—the rival New England Patriots. Brown’s payout included a $9 million signing bonus and up to $15 million for the year. This was the perfect end to past turmoil and a new beginning for Brown. Or was it…
36. A Very Brady Bromance
One thing is certain: Brown and former Patriots QB Tom Brady hit it off quickly. Brady owned a nearly 10,000 square foot Massachusetts mansion with a 2,400 square foot, detached guest house, which he offered to Brown. Patriots fans exploded with high hopes.
37. It Finally Hits the Fan
Antonio Brown played just one game with the Patriots. In September 2019, he was hit with serious assault allegations by a former personal trainer named Britney Taylor. Her civil lawsuit against him named three separate occasions between 2017 and 2018 when he either exposed himself or assaulted her violently. The Patriots released him, and Brown tweeted, “Thank you…the marathon continues.”
38. A Betrayal of Faith
Taylor was an elite-level gymnast when she’d first met Brown at Central Michigan University. The two became bible-study partners in a school group for Christian athletes. In her lawsuit, Taylor claimed that Brown “preyed on [her] kindness and her religious devotion, casting himself as a person equally dedicated to his religious faith and someone she could trust.”
39. An A+ Family
At last count, Brown has five children from different relationships: a daughter named Antanyiah, and sons Antonio Jr., Autonomy, Ali, and Apollo. While he suffered from parental neglect as a youth, Brown seems publicly proud of himself in a fatherhood role. He’s said, “Kids are amazing…they imitate everything that they see daddy doing.”
40. What About Junior?
However, despite his talk, not everyone agrees that Brown is the perfect dad. Shameika Brailsford, mom to Antonio Jr., has taken to Instagram in the past to complain about Brown not paying enough support for his first child. Brailsford accused Brown of calling their son “that boy,” and after expletive-ridden texts and posts fired back and forth between them, Brown replied that he had “three more boys here.”
41. Along for the Ride
For years, Chelsie Kyriss appeared to be the girlfriend who could stomach Brown’s personal and professional controversies and be a steadying influence in his life. They share three sons, and they often celebrated their family life online. Brown rewarded Kyriss with a silver Porsche to match his own, and they shared vacation snaps of a moped-riding, pool-partying trip to Hawaii. But like so much else in Brown’s life, their relationship was doomed.
42. Things Got Tested
When Kyriss was pregnant with her youngest son Apollo in 2017, Brown broke up with her and began dating an Instagram model named Jena Frumes. Kyriss was justifiably not having it, calling Brown out at length on her social media accounts for abandoning their family and flaunting a new relationship in public. Then, before Apollo’s birth, the two got back together—but this storybook ending was simply not meant to be.
43. Bye-Bye, Bliss
By April 2018, domestic bliss between Brown and Kyriss seems to have been irreparably shattered. He issued a court order to have her removed from the home they shared. She accused him of verbal abuse in front of their children, saying he demanded that she leave the premises with nowhere to go and no money to survive.
44. An Unflattering Light
In January 2020, Brown unwisely took to social media again, posting a disturbing video of himself verbally abusing police officers and his ex-girlfriend, Kyriss, close to his Florida residence. Days later, Kyriss filed a lawsuit asking for sole custody of her sons, also requesting that Brown’s time with the children be fully supervised.
45. Arresting Behavior
January 2020 didn’t spell a happy new year for Brown. In addition to his custody lawsuit issues with Kyriss, a felony arrest warrant was issued against Brown on a charge of battery and burglary. Allegedly, Brown and his trainer, Glenn Holt, assaulted the driver of a moving truck who’d arrived at Brown’s Florida home to deliver items from his former California residence. Brown’s problems were starting to pile up—and there was no end in sight…
46. Hard to Paint Over This
Another Antonio Brown accuser surfaced in September 2019 with shocking details of an alleged incident. The accuser is a female artist hired by Brown. While painting a mural in his home, she alleges that Brown got intimate with another woman in the same room. He later approached her—nearly naked—with an unwanted advance. And he didn’t even stop there.
Afterward, she says he threatened her with menacing texts, including a photo of her children.
47. A Light in the Dark
The crushing amount of negativity swirling around Brown suggests that there is such a thing as bad publicity—but it’s not all doom and gloom. Whether he’s doing this for much-needed positive PR or he because he does in fact care, Brown recently tweeted that he would be in Liberty City, Florida every weekend to donate “food, tissue, sanitizer, and masks.”
48. R-Rated Appreciation
NFL player Sean Davis played safety with the Pittsburgh Steelers when Brown was on the team, and Davis has nothing but love for Brown’s work ethic. He said practicing with Brown was “awesome,” and “it battle-hardened me and it made me ready.” But, as other players have noted, Davis described Brown’s trash-talking on-field as “rated R for sure.”
49. A Longwinded Apology
When you’re Antonio Brown, a simple letter of apology won’t cut it. He sat down recently for a lengthy, in-depth interview with an ESPN reporter, and Brown stated, “I think I owe the whole NFL an apology…I think I could have done a lot of things better.” All regrets aside, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said the league is far more concerned about “Brown’s well-being” than anything else.
50. College at Last
Antonio Brown succeeded academically at North Carolina Tech, landing a scholarship to Florida International University. It seemed like he was on the fast-track to success—but nothing has ever been so simple for Antonio Brown. Before he even had the chance to play football at FIU, Brown almost lost it all once again…
51. Issues with Authority
Soon after arriving at FIU, Brown got into an altercation with a security officer on campus. While the exact details of this run-in have been kept under wraps, whatever Brown did infuriated school officials. They immediately canceled Brown’s scholarship and expelled him from the school. According to Brown, officials told him to his face: “We’re gonna say you were never here.”
Brown had gotten his chance to make it big, and it was snatched away before he even had a chance to show what he could do—but he wasn’t about to be beaten so easily.
52. Home Is Where the Chaos Is
Brown was raised in Liberty City, one of Miami’s rougher areas. Unfortunately, his home life didn’t provide much-needed stability. His parents broke up when Brown was around seven years old. Sadly, things would only get worse from there. When his mother remarried about five years later, Brown and his stepfather butted heads constantly. Brown was kicked out of the house when he was just 16 because of this.