Brown Finally Comfortable With Football

There was a time where Justin Brown would have rather suited up in the Joyce Center than in the Notre Dame Stadium. Brown had aspirations to play college basketball, so he didn't join his high school football team until his senior year. He was a natural, and three years later, the junior Brown is involved in a very competitive position battle for the starting right defensive end spot.

Seeing his basketball dreams dwindling, Justin Brown knew he wanted to play sports on the next level so he came out for football in the fall.

"The summer after my junior year, going into my senior year we had basketball camps, and I was pretty much hurt all summer," Brown explained. "I didn't feel like I had a very good recruiting summer, so I was coming in just to try football. Here is where it took me."

Brown made 65 tackles including nine sacks and recovered three fumbles for Bishop McNamara High. After the season, tapes were sent out to colleges across the country. The Clinton, Md., product heard back from small schools first. The big schools like Notre Dame soon followed.

His first year in South Bend, Brown didn't see any action as he was trying to learn the ins and outs of the game.

"Adjusting to football period was tough," Brown said. "Just playing one year of high school and going into a much more advanced situation, there were some negative and positives of that."

Brown didn't have many bad habits, but he didn't have a lot of great ones either. Even though he didn't play that first year, Brown impressed coaches and teammates alike.

"I think he's a natural," classmate and fellow defensive lineman Ronald Talley said. "Justin's got a lot of speed and a motor. That's the thing that really sticks out to me."

The 6-foot-3, 254-pound Brown played in all 12 games last season, seeing his playing time grow when starter Chris Frome went down with a season-ending injury against USC, halfway through the year. Brown became Talley's primary backup, and a couple of bumps and bruises later, he was starting the regular-season finale against Stanford.

"That was amazing to me," said Brown who had 12 tackles last season including a career high four in the Stanford game. "That was like the pinnacle of my year last year, I can pretty much say. That was a great experience."

Brown had one tackle for loss and one quarterback hurry last season. He is still looking for that first career sack.

"That will be amazing when I get that, but we'll see," he said.

Getting sacks is something the whole defensive line is trying to improve upon. The Irish only recorded 31 sacks last season, and to be a national contender that number will have to rise. Out of Brown, Talley and Frome, the player that shows the best ability to pressure the quarterback will most likely see the bulk of the playing time opposite left end Victor Abiamiri. Brown, Talley and Frome have all started here before.

The Irish really had trouble getting after mobile quarterbacks especially. So with that speed and motor Talley was talking about, Brown could at least make a niche for himself on third downs. We have seen in practice, Brown run with the first team when the team is working on the nickel package.

"We are learning to do that a lot better in camp," Brown said of pressuring the quarterback. "We have pretty much a veteran D-line coming back, and we pretty much know the system. We know what to do more effectively as a group. We've been learning different things, specifically I won't get into that. We're just getting better as group."

About halfway through last season, Brown said that was when he began to establish confidence in himself and feel it from his teammates. This fall he is as confident as ever.

"I'm getting more into that as far as feeling like a football player," he said. "These few years behind me have really helped out." Top Stories