Coach: Browne Can Be Special

Cincinnati (OH) Walnut Hills head coach George Kontsis believed Benson Browne was a good enough athlete that his college could be paid for. All he had to do was convince his student that the best way of achieving that would be by focusing on the gridiron and not the hardwood.

Cincinnati (OH) Walnut Hills head coach George Kontsis believed Benson Browne was a good enough athlete that his college could be paid for. All he had to do was convince his student that the best way of achieving that would be by focusing on the gridiron and not the hardwood.

Browne, who checks in at 6-foot-6 and 240 pounds, grew up playing basketball. In fact entering the 11th grade at Walnut Hills he had never played organized football. Things changed that spring when he grew close to Kontsis as a student in the head coach's physical education class.

"He's always been a basketball player," coach Kontsis said of Browne. "To be honest his mom tried to talk me into getting him to play earlier and I didn't have much success. I had Benson in my class during his sophomore year, and we really developed a good relationship.

"After the year I talked to him about both football and basketball. My approach was simple... I asked him how many football players are 6-foot-6? He said probably not many. I asked him how many basketball players are 6-foot-6? He said about all of them. I think he started to really consider it at that point."

Around that time coach Kontsis said a local reporter published a lengthy feature story on San Diego Charger star Antonio Gates, arguably the top tight end in the NFL. Gates played only basketball at Kent State before participating in NFL tryouts after his senior season. He signed as an undrafted free agent with the Chargers and the rest is history.

"That article on Antonio Gates detailed his basketball background and how he morphed into football player," said Kontsis. "I believe that really piqued Benson's interest, and he came out for the team that summer. Now he's a football player first and a basketball player second."

Browne appeared to be a natural at football, impressing his coach with his ability to make plays, he totaled 11 catches in a run-based offense, but also by picking up the offense.

"I was surprised mentally at how easy it came to him," said Kontsis. "Physically he's just such a talented athlete that I wasn't surprised at how good of a player he was, but we do run a pretty complex scheme. He picked things up really well.

"A lot of that comes from his work ethic. He really took to the game and loves to practice and improve. He's the type of kid you have to pull back in practice because he wants to take every rep possible."

A lot of times kids who have basketball backgrounds can struggle with the physical aspect of football, especially tight ends and linemen who are competing in the trenches. That wasn't the case with Browne.

"He was able to move into the physical side of football very easily," Kontsis stated. "I never would have known that he was a basketball player. That question was the first thing big-time college coaches asked when recruiting him... what is his mentality? I tell them he's a football player.

"If you watch his junior highlight tape there is a player where he is actually kicking off for us, he was our backup kicker, and a kid breaks free on a run to the 50-yard line. Benson lights him up. Plays like that and his blocking ability... he's a physical kid."

After Browne's junior season Kontsis put together a highlight tape and began to send it to college coaches. The feedback was positive right away.

"He had a pretty nice highlight film his junior year," he said. "Benson only had 11 catches, but there were really impressive catches and it showed him running rally good routes.

"Once the coaches received the tape and came in to see him... they saw he really was 6-foot-6 and he had the frame, he has very good grades... word got around. He had ten Division I offers before his senior season, and his recruitment took off from there."

Louisville, Illinois, Marshall, West Virginia, Kansas, Minnesota, Miami University, and Central Michigan all extended scholarship offers. NC State was also one of the programs who jumped on Browne early. The Wolfpack, with offensive line coach Don Horton heading up his recruitment, offered Browne back in May and continued its pursuit.

"They were there from the beginning," said Kontsis. "Quite frankly, I don't think NC State was one of the main schools on Benson's radar early on, but I attribute a lot of the credit to Don Horton. He did an outstanding job of recruiting Benson and was very persistent. He stayed with it and continued to recruit him hard and NC State continued to rise with him."

The Wolfpack hosted Browne for an official visit in December and made him a priority. Every offensive assistant went in for an in-home, and Tom O'Brien had a lengthy in-home as well. Kontsis, who is experienced with recruiting as he coached at Villanova University and the University of Cincinnati, says that left an impression on Browne and his mother.

"Their persistence stood out," said Kontsis. "The whole offensive coaching staff, with the exception of the running backs coach, visited Benson at some point during the recruiting process. Coach O'Brien came in for an in-home visit. The offensive coordinator, coach Bible, he came in for an in-home. Coach Horton came in for an in-home. Even tight ends coach Bridge came in for an in-home visit. That left an impression with me, Benson, and his mother.

"A lot of times colleges will send in the recruiting coach and head coach or the position coach and head coach but NC State sent in virtually everyone who would be working with Benson and that was big. It showed how much they valued him. Also, with the coaches being from Cincinnati, the three of us felt that was important as well."

Next up for Browne is signing day. He will make his commitment official next Wednesday at a press conference at Walnut Hills High School. Fully qualified and a strong student in the classroom, Browne is expected to enroll at NC State next summer.

What type of player will NC State be getting?

"Benson is tremendously talented and very athletic," said Kontsis. "He can be a special player, but he is raw and he needs to continue to mature physically. He will certainly redshirt his freshman year... that has already been established.

"That's another plus with coach Horton and NC State. Coach Horton came in and said that Benson will redshirt. He didn't try to give me the answer he thought I wanted to hear. He said he absolutely would redshirt and that is actually what I believe he needs to do. They feel he is going to be their guy at the position in a few years so they want him to mature and develop physically.

"I think it is a very good fit for Benson. I'm happy for him."

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