Before Izaiah Brown became a record-setting sprinter for the Rutgers men’s track and field team, he nearly chose another Big Ten school unpopular to Scarlet Knights fans.
As an All-American in high school, Brown’s recruitment went national. Among the long list of suitors, Michigan nearly led him to maize and blue rather than scarlet and white.
“I was thinking about Michigan, actually,” Brown said. “It came down to Michigan and here, so that was a big-two pick.”
Ultimately, proximity to home and a family atmosphere made Rutgers stand out over the rest for the Amsterdam, N.Y., native. The rest is history for Brown, who cements himself in the Rutgers athletics record books each time the sophomore lines up on the track.
“I just honestly can’t ask for a better place,” Brown said. “It reminds me of home, but at the same time, it’s bigger than home.”
After a freshman year where Brown was named Big Ten Indoor Track Athlete of the Year and earned a spot as a Second Team All-American in the 4x400m relay, he picked up right where he left off.
In his second indoor season, Brown’s performance resulted in a selection with senior sprinter Jermaine Griffith to represent Rutgers in the 2017 NCAA Indoor Championships in Texas from Friday through Saturday.
In a sport where the emphasis is largely placed on the individual, team cohesiveness stood out to Brown ever since he took his first visit to Rutgers.
“I actually came here twice — unofficially and officially,” Brown said. “Unofficially because it’s so close. I came over, I got to watch a few practices. I toured the campuses and stuff like that. I got to hang out with the team, they brought me out to bowling, hung out, went to dinner, had a good time.”
It still remains important to him now, he said.
“I look at us all as leaders in our own ways, from the freshmen leading in different ways to a super senior like Griff,” Brown said. “We all just have different ways in which we lead and it’s kind of inspiring to not have all the dependability on one person alone. When you need a lift, I can always count on the members of my team to be leaders and help me up.”
In a constant race against himself as well as the other national sprinters Brown competes with, pressure to be the best can resonate from the championship races every weekend to the chances of a spot in the 2020 Olympics.
“I wouldn’t say everyday, but (the Olympics) comes up quite often,” Brown said. “My response is always the same. I’ll just cross that bridge when it gets there, focus on my schoolwork, more than anything.”
With a relaxed approach that includes dancing and jumping around, Brown doesn’t let any of the outside noise faze him.
“Mentally, honestly, it’s weird — I goof off,” Brown said. “It’s kind of like it keeps my mind off the seriousness of the race. It keeps the nerves away. If I’m not thinking about it, why would I be nervous about it? So, I don’t think about it until I get on the line. Even when I do get on the line, all I got to do is run the best I can.”