Simply put, the strength of his will was born out of necessity.
"One of the most difficult things is growing up in poverty," Brown said.
Brown was the oldest of six children growing up in a single-parent household. Resources were often scarce, as his mother did the best she could to provide.
Ever since he was a boy, Brown was the man of the family.
"I was like a father figure to my younger brothers and sisters when my dad wasn't around," Brown said. "I had to do a lot for that, and that really put a lot on me when I was younger."
Having to spend 2002 at a prep school has provided another challenge for Brown. He has had to accept the disappointment of not playing at UNC directly out of high school.
"I was kind of skeptical about the whole thing -- waiting a year," he said.
But Brown said he now appreciates what the extra seasoning has done for him.
"This year has helped me out a lot because I'm better prepared physically as well as mentally," Brown said. "I think I will be better prepared than I was when I was just coming out of high school."
Robert Prunty has known Brown less than a year -- something not unusual for the Hargrave post-graduate football coach. But in that short period of time, Prunty has built up a great deal of respect for his team leader.
"If I'm going to start a football team…Melik Brown is who I want to start that team with," Prunty said. "He's powerful, but he has this finesse about him. He's so athletic and he is so flexible."
Yet it just might be Brown's mental toughness that sets him apart and what is most appealing to John Bunting and the UNC coaching staff.
"The thing I most like about him is his intensity," said defensive tackle Shane Lucas, Brown's teammate and a UNC recruit from Angier.
The Hargrave military structure and the opportunity to practice every day with dozens of future Division I players has made Brown stronger on and off the field. One only has to witness the Tar Heels current defensive malaise to realize the need for future strength along the front seven.
Therefore, Brown has the potential to make an immediate impact in Chapel Hill. That's what he's preparing for.
"Physically, he's put on 12 pounds of muscle," Prunty said. "His bench press has gone up 40 pounds."
"[Bunting] told me to be ready to play; and while I'm [at Hargrave], get stronger so I'm ready to play at Carolina," Brown said. "They need some players on defense that can make plays.
"They feel like I'm a player that can make plays, so they said for me to just be prepared."
Mental and physical maturity seem to be the by-products of Brown's prep year at Hargrave, as his life lies ahead amidst the balance of both.
"He'll get the job done for you and he's very level headed," said Hargrave defensive tackle Ma'tron Church. "But at the same time, he's a vicious ball player."
Stay tuned for Part II tomorrow…