Pressure Builds for Lakeland's John Brown

If you have met Lakeland's John Brown, you know it is no stretch of the imagination to label him a gentle giant. He is a monster on the football field, but off the field he is kind to all. He will lend his ear to anyone. Brown is especially close to his family, his coaches and his teammates. Everybody loves John Brown.

This young man is under great pressure to make his collegiate pledge. The pressure is palpable to those close to the situation. He cannot go out of his home without being asked. His phone is always ringing. His family is constantly queried. His teammates and classmates are looking for signs.

Somewhere in all this recruiting game we may tend to lose sight these are kids, not commodities who are valued or de-valued daily. Fans expect them to make decisions that will affect the remainder of their lives with blinding loyalty. It is not that easy.

"I think he is getting bombarded with everybody calling, and his teammates at Florida might be part of the picture," Lakeland defensive line coach Dan Talbot said. "They have been teammates for four years. It's weighing on him. I think he is just going to go to Florida this weekend, and then I think as soon as he gets back take all next week and sit down with his family and make a decision."

Coach Talbot talked with about Brown's visit to Alabama this past weekend.

"He had a great time," Talbot said. "It was nice. Of course, he's been there before. He saw Jamar (Taylor) everyday and got to spend time with him. He had a great time. Things are good on that level, and I think that has something to do with it. The nice thing is that wherever he decides to go he's going to have a little piece of home."

"To be honest with you, he just really doesn't know. I think it is down to Florida and Alabama, but he just told me flat out, "I just don't know. I really don't know."

The coaching changes at the University of Alabama made Brown re-evaluate the situation. A former Tide assistant coach was instrumental in his recruitment.

"Chris Ball was a good friend of mine," Talbot said. "I've known Chris for 12 years. I knew Chris would take care of him. I'm sure wherever he goes Alabama or Florida is going to take care of him."

"It's like I told him, YOU have to go there, I don't. Your mom is not going to be there, your granddad is not going to be there, I'm not going to be there. You have got to go with an open mind. I told him this before he went to Alabama. You have got to try and picture yourself there, living there by yourself. You've got to do that in every place you go."

We asked Talbot if the decision might drag on past next week, "I don't know," he said.

Talbot and Brown have a very close relationship. It's evident when you see them together, and it's crystal clear when you talk with coach Talbot these days. You can hear the concern in his voice for his five-star pupil.

"Everybody knows my relationship with John," Tabot said. "It is different, and it is special. He knows my major concern is for him."

Brown has always given the impression of someone who would not want to make anyone upset with his decision.

Talbot concurs, "Oh yes. He's quiet and shy and doesn't want to make anybody mad. That is the one of the things I'm trying to make sure of. I tell him I am going to be happy for you wherever you go. Just go somewhere." "My main concern is just making sure he goes. I don't care where. I just want to make sure he walks across that stage and gets that diploma. That he gets on that plane or gets in that car and goes to school. That's the only thing I'm concerned with right now. If it is Florida, Alabama, LSU, or Florida State that is his decision. My job is to make sure he goes somewhere. It is his job to decide where."

Rebecca's Take: Covering John Brown this season I will take away with me a tremendous amount of respect for the way this young man has handled himself. I hope the fans from the schools who come up on the short end of his decision will also see the gentle giant and understand it really is all about him and his future.

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