Brown Talks About State Of Pitt

Ruben Brown played at Pitt from 1991-1994, and was a three-time all-conference selection for the Panthers. Brown retired from a 14-year NFL career in February of 2009. Now that he has some more time on weekends, he is looking to get reconnected with his alma mater.

Brown's playing career was during a tumultuous early 1990s period under Paul Hackett, then Johnny Majors. Pitt endured four losing seasons during Brown's time, but that didn't stop him from becoming a first-round pick, and it certainly didn't prevent him from being one of the all-time greats to wear a Pitt uniform.

Wednesday, Brown was honored when he was asked to present the Pitt Nike Pro Combat uniform. He calls it the first step of him getting back in touch with the program, after devoting 14 seasons to an NFL playing career.

"They asked me if I wouldn't mind, if I was in the area, to present the new uniform, especially it being a big game," Brown said. "I said yeah. It was huge. I've been trying to get involved over the years, ever since I retired. Go back to Pitt--be involved, be around, talk to some of the players, and just enjoy the games. When they called me up and asked me to come over, I said sure, no problem."

While the subject of uniforms is often a hot topic of debate, Brown's playing career was centered around a ‘Major' uniform changes. When he came to Pitt, the Panthers sported bright yellow and royal blue, as their respective shades. In his junior year, when Johnny Majors took over the program for a second time, the school went back to a retro gold, and faded royal blue.

"I always am a little reluctant, whenever they change from what I remember as the old tradition," Brown said of the uniform changes over the year. "I can see they definitely left a lot of the old colors and old scheme in (the Combat uniforms), but updated. I like it. I'm always fussy--I want things to stay the same. I want the old Dan Marino and Tony Dorsett uniforms.

While he may have been in New York for something as simple as a uniform unveiling--for a uniform that will be worn for one game, Brown was invited because of his enthusiasm for the program. After the ceremony, Brown immediately went and snapped self portraits on his cell phone of him, with the Pitt display of uniforms to post on his Facebook page, as well as sending on to friends.

Brown's love for Pitt was no more evident, than when he presented the Pitt uniform on Wednesday.

"A uniform like this deserves a special game," former Pitt offensive lineman Ruben Brown said, as he presented his description of the uniform. "That is the Backyard Brawl. That's when you will see this uniform unveiled on November 26, when the Pitt Panthers beat the West Virginia Mountaineers."

Of anyone who presented--including Miami alum Michael Irvin--no one proclaimed such confidence. That was until West Virginia basketball coach Bob Huggins had to answer back.

"Go West Virginia, beat the hell out of Pitt," Huggins said on the main stage, after presenting the West Virginia uniform.

Brown said the two joked, after Huggins came off the stage.

"We laughed about it afterwards," Brown said. "(Huggins) came off the stage, and he said, ‘I couldn't let you get away with that,' That's how deep that (rivalry) is. A lot of the public doesn't get it. They don't get it until it's on TV. We live it all year long. We are planning for that game right now. I played in it. It's been exciting; competition for me. I've played against tons of guys that went to West Virginia that I saw in the NFL. We'd always taunt each other. It's all in fun. It's college football."

As he's looking to get even more reconnected with his alma mater, when Brown spoke of Pitt's potential this season, it's clear that he does more than just read the scores or just watch the games. He talks of a fan who follows the program, almost year-round.

"I'm very excited about the potential of this season," Brown said. "We have a lot of outstanding players. It really is going to come down to how well our offensive line can play. We've got a great offensive line coach that knows how to develop our guys, but we're solid.

"Our quarterback is there. I'm not even going to go into the running backs and receivers. We're solid. We're good to go. Then, on that defensive line. We got guys that can play lights out. We got pro-caliber players."

He's optimistic, and cautious at the same time with how this year's offensive linemen are going to develop.

"(Tony Wise), that's there now obviously has tons of NFL experience," Brown said. "(The current linemen) have the talent to go to the next level, but also if they don't have the talent to go to the next level, (Wise) has the ability to teach them things that an NFL player does that they can take advantage of at the college level. I'm excited.

"The guys need some work. We're going to have to get in some tough dog fights. We're young linemen. To know what it means to go into a brawl, and come out on top at the end. Maybe they can get kicked and knocked around a little bit, but learn how to finish, and finish the game. That's the only thing that I worry--some of the young, inexperienced guys, that haven't had that much time on the field, that really lack (experience). I think once they get it, the coaching staff sees what they got, we're going to be good."

Pitt put up seasons of 6-5, 3-9. 3-8 and 3-8 during Brown's years. Again, as the program struggled during his career, Brown was able to be Pitt's lone first-round draft pick between Sean Gilbert in 1992 and Larry Fitzgerald in 2004. Though the program was struggling during much of his career, he likes where the program is heading right now.

"In my opinion, I was talking to a couple of my friends, I see us moving into that upper echelon this year, of college teams," Brown said. "We should have been there last year, We lost a couple that we should have won. That could have kicked us up in the top five. I'm expecting us to be in the top five at some point this season, and hopefully finishing out the year in that range.

"I got high hopes. I'm not just saying that because I went to Pitt. I went through the lean times. I know what it looks like when you don't got a team, but we got a team."


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