It's a family affair for the Browns

Since he was 5 years old John Brown Jr. has made it no secret where he wanted to go to college. On Friday evening he made the dream a reality as he gave Walt Harris and the University of Pittsburgh a verbal commitment to continue his football career there.

The 6-4, 273 lb. Burrell High School (PA) athlete was receiving interest from Ohio State, Iowa, Michigan State, Syracuse, Indiana, North Carolina State, and Nebraska.

"Friday at school I was standing in line to donate blood, and principal Mike Stofa came up to me and said I got some news for you. He told me ‘Pittsburgh has offered you a scholarship to play football'."

"I was in awe, I was so excited. I called my mom and told her. Dad already knew it was coming. My whole goal in life was to play for Pittsburgh."

The Insiders interview with John Brown Jr.

Will you take any other visits?

"No, I am happy with my decision."

Being that your father is well known with Pitt fans, does this place any added pressure on you?

"I kind of feel some pressure, but I look at it as a challenge. I want to prove I can be equal to or better than what he did."

Do you watch any of your dad's old football tapes?

"I always watch the South Carolina game in 1981, dad caught 3 touchdowns that game. I also watch his Sugar Bowl catch; it is on a tape called Great Moments in Western Pennsylvania Sports.

Being the first commitment, and with your knowledge of Pitt history, does this make you sort of like an ambassador for this class?

"I think it does, I plan on going to summer camp and hopefully talking to some kids who are considering Pittsburgh."

It seems as if Pittsburgh has taken a very active approach towards Western Pennsylvania kids thus far in recruiting.

"I think the coaches have figured they have made some mistakes, and are now focusing on kids that want to go to Pittsburgh."

How did the recent ruling with the New Big East being guaranteed a BCS bid affect your decision?

"For me it didn't make a difference, I wanted to go to Pitt regardless. I think it will have a positive effect on recruiting. If I was the rest of the nation I wouldn't sell the Big East short just yet."

What is your take on verbal commitments?

"Once you commit you should honor it, it is called a commitment for a reason. I personally think Morelli and Johnson made big mistakes, but that's on them."

You were recruited as an offensive tackle correct?

"Yes, I have always been a tight end, but in our offense you are basically a tackle anyway, so it's not going to be that big of an adjustment for me."

John Brown Sr. played for the University of Pittsburgh from 1979 to 1982. Brown is currently the father of four, and manager of American Life & General Insurance. Brown is also an assistant coach on Tom Henderson's Burrell High School staff. I interviewed John to get his feelings on his son's decision to attend Pittsburgh, and to relive some of the glory days of Pitt football.

The Insiders exclusive interview with John Brown Sr.

When you were at Pittsburgh, whom did you play for?

"Jackie Sherrill was the head coach, I was recruited by Ray Zingler, and my position coach was Joe Naunchik."

What are the differences between recruiting then as opposed to now?

"These early commitments are a big deal now, back when I played you were recruited, then you signed, that was it."

"It seems that there has been parity in recent years, with all the scholarships being equal. It is very evident as you now see the MAC schools competing year in and year out."

What is the greatest memory of the teams you played on at Pitt?

"We had a total team mentality, you can't coach it and you can't develop it. We had some great talent on those teams - Dan Marino, Tony Dorsett, Hugh Green, Jimbo Covert, Bill Fralic, Tommy Flynn and so many more. With that talent we still played as a team. The thought or possibility of us losing never entered our minds. It didn't matter if we were playing Florida State or Penn State; we played them all the same. We lost 6 games in four seasons and I honestly believe we beat ourselves in those games. We always had a target on our backs, everyone played their best against us."

Are you still active with the University?

"I am very active. I do a lot of speaking engagements, ribbon cutting ceremonies, and fundraisers. I am attached to Pittsburgh forever; I am part of the folklore with our moment of glory in the Sugar Bowl. I have made sure since my playing days to extend a helping hand to the University. Every summer I help coach at Walt's football camps, whatever they ask me to do I try and help."

Is it your goal to someday gain an administrative position with the University?

"It isn't something I actively lobby for. I had talks with Steve Pederson and Jeff Long about it. I guess I would be interested."

How does it make you feel seeing all the changes at Pittsburgh, with the facilities?

"I always got calls from people when the stadium was to be demolished, they had the petitions and all. I never signed any of them. I think the new facilities are a great thing and it shows a commitment from the administration. These guys want to make Pittsburgh a premiere athletic program. It is very important for kids and their parents when they come to Pittsburgh to see that type of commitment."

What is your opinion on the recruiting efforts during Walt's tenure?

"Walt is a great man, with a very good staff. I think we are lacking in a couple positions and they are working at correcting that. I believe they are a couple players away from being very special."

"People look too much at the high school All-Americans and all that. When I was recruited we had two kids who were considered stars - Dan Marino and Julius Dawkins. They were the No. 1 and No. 2 recruits the staff wanted. Rich Kraynak and myself were probably number 24 and 25 respectively and we didn't turn out too bad. I think it's more important to get players who fit your program.

How does it make you feel to see your son follow in your footsteps?

"I am very proud, it's hard to put into words. I have always known he wanted to play there, so I cant say I was surprised. I'd just like to think I helped him develop and taught him he could do anything he wanted to do. If he wanted to play a flute or play with a chemistry set, I would've supported that. Although I'd buy him a bat and a ball before I'd ever buy him a flute or a chemistry set. It's awesome to watch in person when a kid's lifetime ambition comes to fruition, that is pretty special. Now he needs to get through his senior season and work on some things like his cardio, and he'll be ready."

You have another son who is rumored to be a pretty decent player, is that true?

"Aaron will be a junior this season, he is a player."

Is Aaron as crazy about Pittsburgh as John Jr. is?

"He likes Pitt. But if John liked Pitt, say on a scale of 10, it would be a 10. With Aaron it's probably a 7, things can change but that's how I see it now."

Describe the feeling of the Sugar Bowl victory for us?

"It honestly has been a positive and a negative for me. The positives are what it did for the team. It created one of the biggest memories in team history, and I will be forever associated with Pittsburgh and that play forever. The negatives are that I want to be remembered for more than that catch. I want to be remembered as a hard working guy, who was team oriented, confident and always reliable. I am a true blue collar guy."

"If I had a choice of what would be on my headstone, the Sugar Bowl play or that I was a hardworking, reliable, team oriented guy. I would choose the latter."

Before I let you go, describe the play to me?

"It was called 69x, we had 5 yards to gain for a first down. We had Dawkins and Collins split out, we were in split backs. The backs were to cross in the middle. Dan was to read it, hit the open man, and get a first down. They decided to blitz 8 guys at us; Dan read the blitz perfectly. Julius and Dwight ran their guys off on the outside. The running backs stayed in to block. I beat Steve Kelly across the middle for the touchdown."

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