Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei offensive tackle Tommy Brown has plenty of friends up in Berkeley, what with former throwing teammate Malik McMorris, and other fellow Monarchs in Chase Forrest, Addison Ooms and Matthew Rockett. He's been to Berkeley before -- including the Spring Game, when he hauled in his scholarship offer -- but after Sunday's Opening Regional at El Sobrante (Calif.) De Anza, he made a return trip.
"It was a lot more individualized, being shown around by coach [Brandon] Jones, and such," Brown said.
The trip also included a bit of a product demo for Brown.
"They had all their stuff out, in one of the conference rooms. They had all the Nike gear out, and they were telling me about the gear," said Brown. "I got to take pictures with all of the gear on. I had my jersey on, and such. Then, they told me about Under Armour, the contract, and how, with Nike, they get a suitcase worth of stuff, the players, but with Under Armour, they're going to get three suitcases, so that's pretty appealing. After that, I talked with coach Dykes, my dad and I, in his office, and that was cool, going into coach Dykes's office, and getting to be able to see his office and talking to him, just one-on-one."
This summer, Brown will pack a suitcase of his own, as he and his father -- Vince Brown, a former shot put thrower for Alabama -- embark on a whirlwind tour of schools across the nation.
"We have a few weeks left of school, and then, the day after school ends, on June 10, I'm flying into Washington, D.C., and driving down to Virginia, then driving down to Duke, touring there, and going to the Duke camp for a day, then we've got to be back for football on Monday," Brown said. "Then, we are going to take a trip to the South. We're flying into New Orleans and taking a road trip to LSU, and then Ole Miss, Vanderbilt, Tennessee, ending up at Alabama. That'll be our last stop before going back to New Orleans."
Rather than just being a trip down memory lane for Vince, the trip to Tuscaloosa almost sounds like one designed to dissuade the younger Brown from heading back to the old alma mater.
"When we were talking to coach Dykes, he asked about what else I'm doing, so we told him how we're taking a trip down there, and my dad was like, 'He wants to go to Alabama, so I'm going to take him there in the middle of summer to make sure he knows the worst it will be, in the middle of July,'" Brown said. "Coach Dykes says, 'Well, it's always nice up here in the Bay.'"
"I can respect that, as a big man," he laughed.
With a 3.7 GPA, Dykes told Brown, he's a "great fit" in Berkeley, especially with the tradition -- recent through it may be -- of Mater Dei players coming to Cal.
"My dad, his wish is to have me play in the Pac-12, so he can come see me, so he was liking it," Brown said of his father, Vince, who stands at 6-foot-3. "He's no stranger to college programs. He was a shot putter at Alabama in the Bear Bryant age. He was good friends with the football players, and actually, was the only non-football player that got to eat with the football players."
This season, Brown got to CIF Prelims in the shot put, and came in 10th, just one place -- and 3/4 of an inch (or one extra grunt) away from placing in the top nine and advancing to the finals.
"I was bummed, but coach [Bruce] Rollison wasn't. He was ready to have me back," said Brown, who's moving from right tackle to left tackle this season.
During the visit, both Brown and his father got to speak in-depth with Jones about his philosophy, both on the field and off.
"He says he has a daughter, he has one on the way, and he has 19 sons, is what he likes to tell people," Brown said. "He will treat us like his sons, and he will continue to raise us to be responsible young men. Football, as we know, we don't get to play football as long as we want, so it's learning life's lessons through football, and how the kids sometimes hate him, but it's for the best, and I've totally been raised like that with my dad, who's the head baseball coach at Foothill high school, and he's been my coach for baseball in Little League, and he's been helping me a lot with the shot put, so I know how it is to have a coach that cares more about getting you better than what you think about him. Same with coach Rollison."