Preston Brown quietly leads the defense
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Preston Brown quietly leads the defense

U of L junior linebacker Preston Brown, a 2nd Team All-Conference selection, not only finished the regular season as the team's leading tackler, but also as a key figure for the Cardinals young defense.

Since his arrival at the University of Louisville as a member of the 2010 recruiting class, Preston Brown has developed into the type of linebacker that Charlie Strong anticipated.

"We needed some big backers in this program and that is what he is, a big explosive guy that is very athletic and can run," Strong said of Brown during 2010's National Signing Day press conference.

Rated among the top 100 linebacker prospects in the nation as a high school senior at Cincinnati Northwest High School, Preston Brown made an impact at U of L from the start. Brown has appeared in every game during his time at U of L. He played a significant role on special teams as a freshman. In 2011, he recorded 11 starts and finished second on the team with 84 tackles.

This season, Brown's presence and ability to find the ball has made the junior one of the top performers at his position in the Big East and he was honored as 2nd Team All-Conference selection.

"It feels good to get those types of honors," Brown told CardinalAuthority.com. "Any time you get acknowledgement for the type of season that you have is a good feeling."

After a somewhat slow start to 2012, Brown finished the regular season as the team's leading tackler with 96 total stops.

"He was kind of tentative at the beginning part of the season," said U of L linebackers coach Brian Jean-Mary. "He's such a detail-oriented kid that he was trying more not to make a mistake than to make a play. He watched film from early part of the season then he realized if he just cuts it loose then he can really help us on defense. Once he did that, it just clicked from there."

"I try to come out and help the team any way that I can, so I had to step up and make some tackles this year," Brown said. "Really, I just want to help the team out as much as I can."

Brown is also developing into a leader on the defensive side of the ball. The junior has found himself lined up with a pair of true freshmen, James Burgess and Keith Brown, frequently throughout the season.

"He's been more of a lead by example guy," Jean-Mary said. "When his production started to pick up, his leadership started to pick up. He's not a big talker and I think he's starting to figure out he can do a lot of leadership with the way he performs on the field. A lot of guys are starting to respect that. He took the role of a true middle linebacker."

Brown has watched the freshmen mature throughout the season, but continues to provide a leadership role.

"It's basically a new season now, because we have about a month to prepare for Florida," he said. "Those guys are older now, so they are getting things done on their own. Right now, I try to lead by example in any way that I can."

One of the reasons that Brown chose Louisville over Cincinnati and Minnesota three years ago was the opportunity to play on the large stage.

"Being in a BCS game like the Sugar Bowl, it's a big time game," said Brown. "It'll be fun playing for a national audience like that."

While he knows the task of defeating the third-ranked Florida Gators on January 2nd in New Orleans, Brown is looking forward to the opportunity to pull off the upset.

"They are a great team, so we're going to go out and see how good we really are," said Brown. "Everyone will get to see what Louisville is about."