Up Close: Prizell Brown, Part II

AUSTIN, Texas --- After making the transition to tight end seem effortless with a solid freshman season, Prizell Brown entered the following offseason with a lot of promise, as well as the attention of several Division I-A programs.

Awarding Brown for his leaderships traits, the Blinn coaching staff opened up the offseason by naming Brown to the "Team Council," which consisted of six players – one from each position unit – that would serve as team captains. Brown represented the running backs/tight ends.

"It is a leadership position," Blinn assistant coach Chris Smith said of the group. "He was a leader off and on the field. He liked meetings, he liked going to practice – Prizell was a model for the guys inside and outside [of football]."

During that summer, Brown's recruitment started to heat up. Most of the schools in the Big 12 inquired about the 6-foot-4, 255-pounder and several schools – including Arizona, Kansas State, New Mexico, and UAB – extended early scholarship offers.

Arizona, Kansas State, and New Mexico pressed Brown to officially visit early in the season. However, concerns with the future of their respective coaching staffs made him leery.

"At the time, I wasn't thinking about [visiting them], because they had many problems going on at their schools," Brown said.

Coming into the season, the Blinn coaching staff planned to utilize Brown similarly to the season prior – equally as a receiving option and blocker, plus motioning him into the backfield to block and receive handoffs. However, they would add a wrinkle to the offense that lined Brown up at receiver in a bunch package.

"He ran routes so well that we could afford to do that," Smith said. "Normally tight ends, either they're not athletic enough or they're not the best route runners…

"It really worked out for us. After putting it in, we ran routes with him, [and] we did some toss and some other things where he was blocking. Prizell is one of those kids that give you so many options."

Blinn headed into the 2008 season ranked No. 2 in the nation. That ranking set up a season-opening match-up between the top two nationally ranked teams – Blinn versus Butler CC – which was billed as the "Battle of the Champions" since it also featured the two most recent national champions (Blinn won in 2006 and Butler won in 2007).

With Brown's help, Blinn pulled the upset, 23-20, on the road.

"Prizell had two big time catches in that game," Smith said. "I think he had four or five catches overall."

With the victory, Blinn became the top ranked team, which the Buccaneers held until Week 5 when they lost to Kilgore College, 20-17, in triple overtime. After that upset, Blinn went on a four-game winning streak, which saw the Buccaneers score 50-plus points in each contest.

After losing to No. 1 Navarro in Week 10, Blinn avenged both of its season's losses in consecutive weeks in the Southwest Junior College Football Conference playoffs. The Buccaneers defeated Kilgore, 54-42, in the semifinals and then upset No. 1 Navarro, 49-24, to win the SWJCFC.

"Our kids came together and just finished up strong," Smith said.

Despite a solid 9-2 season that included victories over then No. 1s Butler and Navarro, Blinn missed out on the national title game. Instead, the Buccaneers accepted an invite to the C.H.A.M.P.S. Heart of Texas Bowl in Copperas Cove, Texas.

An unfocused Blinn squad, which headed into the bowl game ranked 5th in the nation, lost to No. 14 Fort Scott CC, 30-14.

"We didn't show up to that game," Smith said. "How we explain it: we were three points away from going to the national championship game [and] the team that won the national championship game, we beat – our kid's heads just weren't into the game. It was kind of like how Alabama went into the Sugar Bowl."

Prior to Blinn's bowl game, North Carolina began to pursue Brown.

"Coach [John] Blake called and said that they were interested in a tight end and heard that we had a guy," Blinn assistant coach Keith Browning said. "They came down and I guess they started the recruiting process with Prizell."

Blake eventually contacted Brown and briefed him on UNC, a school that he had never even considered before.

"We had a nice talk and he told me a couple of things," Brown said. "I liked what I heard."

Within their discussions, Blake and Brown settled on an official visit date – the weekend UNC hosted in-state rival NC State. Brown's experiences during his official stay were enough to not only win him over, but also have him contemplate a verbal commitment.

"I had big plans on committing [while I was on campus]," Brown said. "But I just wanted to talk it over with my parents and make sure they approved my decision."

Thus, after the visit, Brown returned home to Austin and described to his parents all that he saw and heard during his UNC official trip.

"I told them about the academic program – that's what I really liked about the school," Brown said. "They have great tutors that give hands-on help."

A couple of days later, Brown called Blake and informed him that he would be verbally committing to UNC.

"He was very excited," Brown said. "He went around the office [and] told all the coaches. I got to talk to all the coaches."

Brown, who says his commitment is firm, will enroll at UNC – and be academically qualified – after graduating from Blinn in May.

Based on what the UNC coaches have told him, Brown expects to immediately battle for playing time at tight end.

"Richard Quinn is leaving the program and those are the big shoes they expect me to fill," Brown said.

Brown will have two years of eligibility remaining and a red-shirt available, if necessary.

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