The ball doesn't weigh that much really, 14.4 ounces right out of the box, but when it's carrying the expectations of thousands in this West Georgia town, it can seem so much heavier.
Reggie Brown was ranked by the team that was TheInsiders.com as the #2 wide
receiver in the country. He also was a spectacular track athlete.
"Bless his heart, you can't imagine the number of (recruiting) calls he
had," said Randy Padgett, who was the offensive coordinator at
Carrollton during Brown's heyday and is now the head coach down the road
at Central of Carrollton. "There was so much excitement when Reggie
signed with Georgia."
Carrollton is a town of almost 20,000 just south of Interstate 20 not
long before the Alabama line. Thanks in part to the four teams Brown
starred on, it has become known for its football in a part of the state
not known for much of anything, really.
It was important to many here that Reggie Brown spread the message of
Carrollton football on a larger stage, and, therefore, it was important
to Reggie Brown.
"What other people think about him is important to him," Padgett
"You want to make the people who you've come up with proud,"
said. "I was worried about what people would think if I didn't meet all
the expectations. I put way too much pressure on myself to do it right
It looked like it might not come at all when Brown failed a high school
English class, making him ineligible to enroll at Georgia in the fall of
1999 and leaving him feeling like he'd disappointed people before he
even left town.
Brown retook the English class the next fall and passed, but as he was
preparing to enroll at Georgia for the winter semester, Carrollton coach
Ben Scott died of cancer, shaking the whole town and Brown in
"Coach Scott was such a big supporter of him," Padgett said.
The challenges didn't end when Brown began his career at Georgia. He
caught four passes for 56 yards in the first game of his freshman
season, but he only caught nine passes the rest of the season.
The next year, he tore his ACL in the third game, ending his season and
keeping him out of the bulk of spring practice for the 2002 season. The
coaching staff lauded Brown for his preseason work prior to last
season, and it seemed he was finally on the verge of making his mark.
The result of all of his hard work, though, was a 23-catch season with
less than 300 yards and just two touchdowns.
Not everyone in Carrollton cringed at Brown's struggles, Trojans track
coach Craig Musselwhite said - some chuckled.
"You hear the talk around Carrollton, 'Reggie's never going to be
anything. If Georgia ever plans on Reggie being somebody, they're
kidding themselves.' I've had to deal with that for four years,"
Maybe those people feel like Brown once felt, that he let them down by
not making All-American right out of the gate. Maybe it's just a natural
backlash toward a kid whose name was known from coast-to-coast by the
time he was a junior in high school.
Or maybe it's about the way Brown carries himself.
"He's a different kid, now, I'll tell you," Musselwhite said.
Reggie. That's what everybody says, Reggie is Reggie."
What exactly that is is tough to explain, even for Brown.
"I don't know," he said. "How would you describe me?"
"I don't know how to describe Reggie," Padgett said. "He's
special kid. Talent-wise and person-wise, he's special."
The people close to Brown speak very highly of him, but the list of
those people is short.
"He doesn't open up to too many people," Musselwhite said.
"Even in our
conversations now, I have to kind of pick at him a little bit to get him
to tell me things.
"If you don't know him the way I do, you might think Reggie's a
stuck on himself or arrogant or whatever, but that's not him."
He's merely contained, they say, as comfortable by himself as in a
group. He often works out alone, whether it be running 100 consecutive
pass routes by himself, which he's done a number of times in Athens and
Carrollton, or taking aerobics classes at Gold's Gym, as he did this
summer here in Carrollton.
Order is important to Brown and only he knows the order he needs
everything to be in.
"He's got his little routines," Musselwhite said. "It
what else is going on, he's going to get those things done before he
does anything else."
Brown does his pre-practice and pregame stretching in the same order
and for the same amount of time. On game days, he's always the last
Bulldog out of the tunnel, just like he was always the last player off
the bus when he was a Trojan.
That desire to make sure everything is just-so can be a detriment.
"He's a perfectionist," Georgia wide receivers coach John Eason
"and sometimes it tends to hurt him. He wants everything to be just
right, and he gets down on himself real easy."
Brown's physical gifts are so apparent that it's hard for some to
believe he could question himself.
Georgia strength coach Dave Van Halanger measures each player's power
index during the Bulldogs' summer conditioning program. The power index
is an indication of strength compared to body weight. Brown's 6.52 index
is a half-point higher than any other scholarship player. His total
weight in the team's three major lifts (bench press, squat and power
clean) is higher than any of Georgia's starting offensive linemen.
"For the last three years, everybody would say he's the best athlete
the team," Georgia quarterback David Greene said.
Musselwhite said he knew Brown was a special athlete when he saw him on
a recreation department field as a first-grader, but the real Reggie
stories don't start until he entered ninth grade.
It was then that Scott put him at scout team tailback to mimic the
speed of Crim's offense.
"Nobody could tackle him, nobody," Musselwhite said.
"I can still hear our defensive coaches fussing, 'We can't tackle a
freshman,'" Padgett said. "He was making our first-team defense look
The next year, he wowed them again, during a track meet in which he set
the state long jump record at 24 feet, 9 inches. But nobody in
Carrollton talks about that jump. It's the one before it that they
remember. Brown scratched by less than an inch but cleared 25 feet, 6
"It was scary," Padgett said. "I thought he was going to
land out of
Three years later, while Musselwhite and Brown were training following
Brown's graduation, Musselwhite swears he timed Brown at below 4.3
seconds on six consecutive 40-yard dashes with a one-minute rest between
"There were a couple that were even faster than I would want to
But only now is Brown's mind getting out of the way enough to let his
body take over. He said he decided this summer, finally, that he had to
leave the expectations of his hometown behind.
"Either I'm going to get it done, or I'm not," he said.
"It's my life."
Brown took over a starting spot in the Bulldogs' second game of the
season and leads the team with 22 catches for 293 yards. He also has two
touchdowns, which ties his season-high.
"He's always worked hard, and I think his confidence level has just
gotten better and better," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "I think he
knows we believe in him and we need him."
Brown caught seven passes for 78 yards last week against LSU, but he
dropped at least one pass. The difference between this year and the
previous three years is Brown seems more capable of bouncing back from
"In the past, I might as well take him out of the game (after one
dropped pass)," Eason said.
But now Brown feels like he's finally finding the rhythm that has
eluded him since high school, giving him the momentum to get over those
bumps in the road, he said.
"His best days are ahead of him, he hasn't shown Georgia football
anything yet in my mind," Musselwhite said. "I think he's got some
things that before he leaves will be remembered as, 'Man do you remember
Reggie Brown doing that?' or, 'Do you remember Reggie doing this?'"
In other words, just like he's remembered in Carrollton.
THE BROWN FILE
Name: Reggie Brown
Position: Wide receiver
Size/class: 6-foot-1, 195-pound junior
Major: Child and Family Development
High school: Carrollton High School
High school honors: 1998 USA Today Georgia player of the year ... PARADE
Magazine All-American ... member of Trojans' 1996 and 1997 state track
champions ... four-year letterwinner on basketball team that won three
straight region titles and at least 26 games each year ...62 catches for
1,046 yards and 10 touchdowns despite missing three games as senior.
College honors: Georgia's leading receiver through four games ... Has
one rush for 12 yards this season.
Quotable: "I'm a Reggie Brown fan, will be for life. In my heart, I felt
like Reggie was going to make it. He was going to find a way because
he's not going to quit. There's not a bit of that in him." - Randy
Padgett, Brown's offensive coordinator at Carrollton.
Reggie Brown - Living up to the Promise
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