FOXBORO -- When Patriots special teams ace Matthew Slater was finishing up his question-and-answer period with reporters on Thursday, second-year defensive tackle walked into the room to wait for his chance at the podium.
It wasn't long before Brown wore a look on his face as though he was being pranked because the last question Slater fielded was about him.
How impressive was it, Slater was asked, that Brown had become a leader after just one season as a pro?
"Well, I think Malcom, he was a unique young guy last year," said Slater, a five-time captain and one of the most well-respected leaders in the Patriots locker room. "He came in with a sense of maturity about himself that you don’t often see out of a young player and it’s no surprise that he’s stepping up and leading now. I think he has a great demeanor about himself that kind of guys are drawn to him.
"He works extremely hard and he’s very productive on the field and all those things result in some form of leadership and guys are going to look to him, and I think that he’s handled that responsibility well. We have a number of young players that have stepped up with the changes that we’ve had, as we do every year, and are doing a great job of leadership. So, Malcom along with several other young guys are stepping up and leading and that’s what we need if we want to end up where we want to be."
Brown has impressed not only teammates like Slater, who had a chance to watch him as a rookie. But newcomers like Terrance Knighton, signed as a veteran free agent this offseason, have noticed the wise-beyond-his-years approach that Brown has taken this offseason.
Though just 22 years old, Brown has been able to help those new to the interior of the Patriots defensive line when it comes to understanding coach Bill Belichick and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia's scheme.
"Malcom Brown has basically been leading the group," Knighton said after an OTA practice last week. "Being in his second year, he's probably the most experienced guy in it right now as far as this team. I'm picking his brain to see how things are done around here."
Brown played more snaps on the interior of the line than any other player in New England last season. The 2015 first-round pick will be part of another well-rounded unit this year that includes Knighton, Alan Branch Markus Kuhn and fourth-round rookie Vincent Valentine, but he hopes to only build on what he was able to do as a rookie.
"It’s just real big in this environment, in this job, just to not take steps back and to keep on improving every day," Brown said, echoing thoughts often relayed by Belichick. "You never want to take steps back, and you never want to stay the same. You really have to go out with a different thing you have to work on and try to do that. I ask older players and younger players if they see anything and I work on that."
Brown's maturity is something that has been listed as a check mark in his favor even since before he was drafted. At the NFL Scouting Combine last year, he spoke about how having a family -- he was already married and had two daughters at the time -- motivated him.
He was asked on Thursday if he believes that family-focused lifestyle helps him continue to develop into the kind of respected professional that garners praise from those who work with him on a daily basis.
"Yeah, it does," Brown answered. "It makes you not do dumb things because you have more than yourself to think about. I focus on my job because it pays the bills. My family, they look up to me because I’m providing for them and stuff. I just make sure I have a different look on things instead of being a young guy in the league and going through the different parts of being at this level. You hone in on what you need to do in the business aspect of everything too."