The same Sergio Brown that was a reserve safety and special teams contributor on the Irish football team last fall.
"James, we are always joking around, we play basketball and everything," the 6-foot-1 196-pound Brown said. "He said I'm real explosive because I can dunk and jump real high and stuff. He can't beat me in hoops.It's not just athletic competitions between the two. The guys get after each other in video games and even homework. Aldridge was one of the first people Brown met during the recruiting process, and is a regular stay over at his dorm. Brown says he is "holding the ranks right now" in everything against Aldridge.
Can Aldridge beat Brown in anything?
"Maybe bowling," Brown said. "Bowling is his sport."
This coming fall, both Brown and Aldridge hope to be regular contributors on the field. While the 6-foot, 213-pound Aldridge appears to be firmly in the running back rotation competing for a starting spot, Brown is trying to make a move on the depth chart at one of the Irish's deepest positions.
"The spring is going real good," Brown said. "Everybody out there is real competitive and playing hard."
"Sergio is making progress," defensive backs coach Bill Lewis said. "Everyday is important for Sergio. He's in that faze that all young players are in. He's got to learn what we're doing, what needs to be done, put all the pieces together. That's the battle all young players fight and that's what he is working at now."Brown is finally working at it healthy.
Not that it hindered him much, the cast this spring probably bothered him more than the injury, but Brown played his last two seasons with a broken wrist. The second game of his senior year at Proviso East High in Maywood, Ill., is when the injury occurred. Brown went on to make 41 tackles, intercept six passes and break up 18 more. He also had 710 all-purpose yards and four touchdowns as a receiver.
"I always thought it was going to go away," Brown said of the pain.
Well it didn't, and when he reported to Notre Dame in June, Brown's injury showed up during his initial physical.
"They saw it was kind of a problem, but it wasn't too big to get to it right away because I had been dealing with it for so long."
So Brown continued to deal with it. He made the travel squad and earned a spot on the Irish kickoff coverage unit and the punt return team. He never saw action at safety, but made four tackles, including one in the season opener against Georgia Tech.
"I remember it like it was yesterday," Brown said.
"The first kickoff of the second half, I ran down, got engaged with the block, spinned off the block and tackled the guy."
Following the season, Brown got his wrist fixed, and was wearing a protective cast this spring for precautionary reasons. He said the cast was scheduled to be removed on Thursday.
Brown is getting work this spring at both safety positions. He mainly played strong safety last season, sitting on the depth chart behind senior captain Tom Zbikowski and sophomore Ray Herring. Now he is trying to challenge Herring and a several other players for a spot in the starting lineup next to Zbikowski.
"Right now, I'm kind of struggling on seeing the offense, it's slow coming to me because I haven't really been playing," Brown said. "But I think I break on the ball very well. I just have to work hard and try to really show what I can do. It's all about how hungry you are."
There hasn't been much of a transition for Brown following the hiring of new defensive coordinator Corwin Brown.
"It was just like a whole new learning experience because last year I wasn't really getting into the playbook, I was messing with the scout team mostly," Brown explained. "It wasn't that hard to transition to coach Brown because I really didn't learn everything with the other."
One place Brown will definitely be playing is on special teams again.
"You see that he can run," Lewis said. "He's an athlete and that shows up. So special teams, you can put a guy out there that can run and try and make plays."
That's the same athleticism Aldridge was referring to.