Family Ties

Orlando Brown tragically lost his father to illness back in the fall. Before he passed away, he shared with his son a special relationship he enjoyed with Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz. That connection has the Hawkeyes in the mix for one of the top offensive line recruits in the country.

Perhaps no other Kirk Ferentz coached player represents his legacy better than the late Orlando Brown. The Iowa head man is a teacher of the game. He often pulls the most out of athletes wiling to work for it.

A large part of Ferentz's success with the Hawkeyes during the last 13 years was made possible by developing athletes few others wanted. The building up of Brown came before this run.

Ferentz and Brown worked together with the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns. Brown joined the Browns in 1993 as an undrafted free agent. He became one of the highest paid offensive linemen in the NFL.

Brown unexpectedly passed away in September at the age of 40. The Maryland state medical examiner determined that his death was caused by diabetic ketoacidosis, an ailment common among diabetics and caused by high blood sugar and lack of insulin.

At the service, Ferentz shared words of comfort with someone very close to his friend and pupil, his son, Orlando Brown Jr.

"I talked to him before and after my dad's funeral," Brown Jr. said. "It was not at all about recruiting. It was about life. I appreciated it, a lot."

Brown Jr., one of the nation's top offensive line recruits, grew up hearing about Ferentz.

"It's something we talked about since I was real young," Brown Jr. said. "Kirk Ferentz was his (dad's) favorite coach and easily one of his favorite people. He helped him in all kinds of ways, from getting in shape to getting right technique wise and learning how to control his anger and channel it into football."

Brown Sr. became a national name after pushing to the ground an official, who inadvertently had hit the offensive lineman in the eye with a ball-bearing weighted penalty flag. He missed three seasons with the eye injury and later sued the NFL.

This much-publicized event often overshadowed the talent Brown Sr. brought to the field. At 6-foot-7, 360-pounds, he was so athletic that he started a game in 2003 at offensive and defensive tackle. His offspring has shown potential to also be a special player.

"I want to be better than my dad," Brown Jr. said. "I watched a lot of film on him. I'm working hard every day to reach that level. I'm doing better in the classroom than he did and he preached that to me.

"Like Kirk Ferentz said, my dad was a great player. A lot of people don't know that because he was undrafted. It motivates me a whole lot. I have big shoes to fill."

Brown Jr. reports a list of scholarship offers that would impress even the most casual of college football fans. Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Iowa, Miami, Michigan, Notre Dame and USC are among 15 schools with an offer out to the Class of 2014 behemoth. Most people on the outside likely would look at that group of programs and say the Hawkeyes at best are a long shot to secure his services.

"Definitely that's a bad assumption," said Brown Jr., who transferred to Peachtree Ridge High School in Suwanee, GA after starting his prep career at DeMatha Catholic in the DC area.

"Every college has a chance with me. I don't care if it's in Conference-USA or the SEC. If it's a good college, I'm looking at it and seeing what they have to offer. I'll go with the best option."

Brown Jr. comes across as a humble giant. The 6-foot-8, 360-pound high school sophomore does not want to rest on his impressive scholarship offer list.

"It's your upbringing," Brown Jr. said. "It's who you put yourself around. I'm not going to let these offers get to my head. It just makes me work harder."

Brown Jr. said he would prefer to play in a pro-style offense at the college level. He's very aware that the Hawkeyes run that system.

Iowa, Miami, Michigan, Alabama, Auburn, South Carolina, Florida, among others, are likely destinations for upcoming Brown Jr. visits.

"I have a really busy summer coming up," he said. "I'm going to be taking a lot of visits to colleges and camps. I'm hoping to go into my junior season with some type of idea where I want to go."

Brown Jr. said he's open to all of the schools recruiting him. Iowa is firmly in that mix.

"My dad always would tell me that it's my decision," Brown Jr. said. "He just told me that Iowa is a great college and Kirk Ferentz is a great coach. He's a true coach that cares. Kirk Ferentz helped him become a professional from being a I-AA player."

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