NAPA -- The labels have followed Trent Brown, whether fair or not, ever since he entered the NFL as a seventh-round draft pick of the 49ers in 2015.
The 6-foot-8, 360-pound tackle has all the athletic tools. He has long arms, a long first step and enough power to tow your car to the nearest gas station if needed. But during his time in San Francisco, questions around his work ethic, commitment and weight management circulated, eventually culminating with the 49ers trading Brown to the New England Patriots prior to the 2018 season.
In New England, under the watchful eye of Bill Belichick, Brown protected Tom Brady's blindside like a man possessed, especially in the postseason where he was the highest-graded offensive tackle, per Pro Football Focus. Brown was an integral part of the Patriots' Super Bowl run last year, and his work keeping Brady upright led the Raiders to make him the highest-paid offensive lineman in history this offseason when they signed the 26-year-old to a four-year, $66 million deal to protect quarterback Derek Carr.
When the Raiders chose to make Brown the highest-paid offensive lineman in history, many scrutinized the decision, pointing to the questions surrounding Brown's work ethic and commitment early in his career.
But if you think Brown will be lacking motivation now that his bank account has a few more zeroes, the tackle has a message for you: Think again.
"I want more," Brown said Sunday after the Raiders' second training camp practice. "People feel like I would just get the money and become lazy. No, I want another huge contract. I want more rings. You know what I mean? I want more of everything. I'm thirsty for it."
Heading to the Patriots to protect Brady with issues surrounding your work ethic is no easy task, but Brown was a rock for the Patriots a season ago, including a postseason in which he didn't allow a sack. Overall last season, Brown allowed just three sacks and 39 total pressures in 744 pass-blocking snaps.
Brown entered Patriot Place with a number of question marks, but left as a champion and now is trying to help the Raiders build a similar culture to the one he thrived in.
"We trying to get the culture to match theirs and possibly take it to another level," Brown said. "I mean, you can just feel it -- the energy. They expect greatness, and you got to do great things and that's why they are in the Super Bowl every year."
While Brown played left tackle last season in New England, he will play right tackle in Oakland with the Raiders electing to keep second-year tackle Kolton Miller on the left side where he is more comfortable. You might think the highest-paid offensive lineman would want to stick in the role he owned in a season ago, but now a Super Bowl champion, Brown is set to do whatever he can to help a Raiders offensive line that struggled mightily last season.
"Tackle is tackle," Brown said. "They got great rushers on both sides. I can just give (Miller) the best knowledge that I have and share it with all the guys and hopefully we can get the whole group to do better. I'm not trying to harbor any information. I'm trying to share it with everybody so we can win that's the sole focus. The main goal."
From being a seventh-round draft pick -- discarded and counted out due to possibly fictional concerns -- Brown views his story as one of the great underdog tales, one that isn't done being crafted.
"I feel like I've been put on the backburner my whole life," Brown said. "Just from being a seventh-round draft pick to now, and even through the process people trying to be in my life -- this is my shirt right here, TB77 the greatest underdog. It explains itself. Seventh-round draft pick to highest-paid offensive lineman, it's just a testament to the work, the way I go about my everyday life, how I treat people. I sow good seeds and I'm reaping the harvest with my everyday work."
After allowing 52 sacks a season ago, Brown hopes to anchor a nastier, tougher Raiders offensive line this season, alongside Gabe Jackson, Rodney Hudson, Richie Incognito and Miller. That group's ability to gel will be a big factor in the success of their season, and a hungry Brown only can bode well for the Silver and Black's chances in 2019.
Last season, Brown arrived in Foxboro as an unknown commodity who some doubted could stick in the Patriot Way. Instead, he thrived, winning a title, earning a lucrative contract and learning what it takes to make it to the top.
Now, he's looking to replicate that success in silver and black, with a few notable changes to his situation.
"Coach Gruden is alive," Brown said with a chuckle when asked to compare his two most recent head coaches. "Belichick is ... well, Belichick."