After rushing for 533 yards as a sophomore in 2011, good for second on the team, Dominique Brown was poised for a big season in 2012 until a knee injury forced the Cincinnati native to the sidelines. Brown had proven himself as a powerful runner and there was no doubt that he was going to be a large part of the Louisville offense, but instead spent the year rehabbing on a medical redshirt.
Watching his teammates win their second consecutive conference title was difficult at times. As the 2012 season neared it's completion, Brown progressed back to full strength and was available, if needed, to play in the season final games, but the choice was made to preserve his redshirt season.
"The Sugar Bowl, I missed that a lot, it was a great atmosphere up there," said Brown. "I would have gave anything to play, but my coaches didn't want me to play, so they held me out."
With 10 more pounds added to his frame, Brown (6'2, 225) has been one of the top performers throughout spring. On Saturday afternoon, in front of a Spring Game record crowd, Brown displayed the type of play that his coaches and teammates have been raving about since practice began on March 20.
"I had the jitters at first because I haven't played in a live game for like a year and a half, but once I got going it felt great to be back out there," said Brown.
Playing for the Red Team, Brown rushed for 79 yards and 2 touchdowns on 9 carries. He also pulled in 30 yards on a team high 6 catches.
"Dominique has had an outstanding spring," said U of L head coach Charlie Strong. "It's so good to get him back. He's a big back and he runs behind his pads. It was good to see him run so well today."
Built like a bruising back, Brown doesn't shy from running through his defenders, but as 33,000 fans at Papa Johns Cardinal Stadium saw on Saturday, he also has the ability to make his defenders miss. It's an area of his game that he focused on improving this summer.
"That's what I've been working on a lot," Brown explained. "Corvin Lamb took a lot of time out with me during the summers, to work with to get my feet right to make cuts. With me being a big back, defenders are expecting me to always run down hill, so I need to add that to my repertoire."
The threat of Brown breaking through the line, or hauling in a quick screen from Teddy Bridgewater, provides added fire power to an already dangerous offense.
"I was really happy to see Dominique play," said offensive coordinator Shawn Watson following the Red's 34-7 win. "He's played that way all spring, so he's back and better than ever before. He's going to be a force to reckon with."