"I was part of something special."
Coming to USF in the spring of 1997, this 5ft 10, 170-pound cornerback out of Jacksonville Lee High School had been recruited by Virginia, Kentucky, and the Citadel. According to Brown, however, "Coach [Jim] Leavitt was the one that wasn't sold. He thought I wasn't fast enough."
Determined to prove his worth, the true freshman won the starting cornerback job after five games and finished the season with 38 tackles (27 solos), more than any other cornerback on the team and third among the secondary.
He was stellar as a sophomore, winning second team I-AA All-Independent honors and 1998 Defensive Playmaker of the Year with four interceptions, 51 tackles, and two fumble recoveries. After recovering from a broken ankle suffered in Week 10, Brown roared back in 1999, starting all 11 games and setting a new school record with 18 pass breakups. He duplicated his 51 tackles from the previous year with 36 solo stops, had a career-high 11 tackles at Western Kentucky, and set a USF record for the most passes defended in a single game with five at San Diego State.
The biggest test of Brown's collegiate career came in the spring of 2001 when he broke his hip, an injury that would later keep him from entering the NFL. Despite missing all of spring workouts, he capped off a stellar career when he intercepted against Liberty for an 86-yard touchdown, still the longest interception return in USF history. At the end of his senior season he was recognized with USF's "First Teamer Award," given annually to the player who exemplifies leadership and accountability both on and off the field.
…On the Bulls' success early on
"Everybody wanted to accomplish the same thing. We definitely had all-star coaches. I don't know much about the current coaches. Coach [Greg] Frey, Coach [Earl] Lane, and Coach [Rick] Kravitz were there from the beginning. Crazy Coach [Jim] Leavitt, his drive, [he] always pushed us to give more even when we had nothing left. [We had a] great team environment, no individual[s]."
…On the current Bulls' roster
"Mike Jenkins is extremely good. Great style, great poise, he's got good presence, good size, good speed. I think he's a solid corner. I think the Louisville game was the first time I really watched him. Great hand-eye skill." [When he punched the ball out of Miami tight end Greg Olsen's hand at the 6 yard line]: "Most definitely I'd say he's a play maker."
"Danny Verpaele reminds me a lot of his brother. He has a real knack for the game. [Last year] he didn't play like a true freshman."
"Johnnie Jones has ability to be a big time safety. They play him well to utilize his strength. [Coach Rick] Kravitz builds defense according to the individual strengths [of the players.]"
…On the Bulls' defense
"It's a totally different style. They play zone [defense] now. My senior year we changed our style of defense…[From] 1997 to 1999 [we played] a little bit of zone coverage, [but] 90% man-to-man bump coverage, in your face…Me personally, I like man-to-man bump coverage. It's more aggressive and you have more control over the receiver."
…On the Bulls' struggles at QB
The Bulls "need someone to step up and grab that spot, to
play consistent week after week. Until
that happens, our offense will continue to struggle."
"Every year it's almost like we're the read-headed stepchild…I almost think they're afraid of us. We don't get the respect we deserve…we outplay their expectations year after year after year after year. I look forward to that day that we'll finally get to a bowl game, and not just get there, but win it."
…On the possibility of ever coaching
"[It's] definitely crossed my mind, to help kids with football and in life."
…On his decision to redshirt before his senior season (2000)
"I did it for educational reasons. I did it because of education ultimately. Hard decision to make.
…On his parents' strong emphasis on education
"My dad always told me, ‘never short-change yourself.' You always need something to have something to fall back on. A lot of people go play ball and get hurt. I never wanted to be labeled as just an athlete, just a ‘jock'… I [couldn't] play pro ball with a dislocated hip so what else?"
…On his faith helping him through injury
"Jason Butler had a knee injury and didn't finish his
career because of it. He wanted me
to come back. It was the grace of
God that put people in my life who believed in me.
[That's] why I love the coaches we had.
If I needed anything, they were always there as counselors, coaches,
fathers, whatever…Steve Walz, the head trainer, he was there since day one of
my hip injury."
What made you choose USF, a brand new football
"I wanted to start as a true freshman, I wanted to be
close to home, and they had the engineering program I had wanted."
As far as teammates go, who were you closest to?
"Alvin Salter and I were roomies the first two years. He was a receiver and I played cornerback, so we had friendly competition in camp. I was closest to him the first two years."
Therman "Big Therm" Edwards, we were really close two years towards the end." He also hung out with Anthony Henry and Glenn Davis.
Right now, "I'm really close to Shawn Hay. We hang out a lot. We work out together, go to church, whatever."
And as far as coaches?
"I was and still am real close with Andre Waters, our DB coach from 1997-1999."
"Mike Canalas started recruiting me the spring after my sophomore season. He was the first coach to ever contact me physically. He had so much faith in me. He was always one of my biggest cheerleaders from beginning to end…[He] was there with me every step of the way. He helped me get into the minority engineering program."
"Jamie DeGerome, our film coordinator. He's big time, does great work. He does the best."
What are you up to these days?
"I'm an IT consultant. I work for Software Architects. Come December it'll be a year and a half. [Before that] I was with Verizon for two-and-a half years. I do software development and participate in architectural design of web interfaces and databases. Our major client is Raymond James Financial."
"I was in a minority mentoring program and I'm in the Big Brothers/Big Sisters program. I started that in June."
"I got my MBA May of this year from the University of Phoenix." (Brown got his bachelor's degree in MIS from USF).
What are your goals now?
"Since I graduated [from USF] my goal was to finish [my] masters." Also wants to be "more acclimated in my profession." "I kinda want to build up my website clientel. I want to continue to build my relationship with God and have somebody to share my blessings with."
"I had a lot of people help me along the way. [I want to] continue to give back to others. [That's] why I did the Big Brother Program."
Have you been to any of the games this year?
"Was at their last home game." Also visited the athletic facility over the summer.
Who was your role model?
"When I got to college, education-wise- my brother Jermaine. He just turned 30, I'll be 27 December 15." He lives in Michigan. I get to see him (and a nephew) three times a year…I saw him in Jacksonville for the Super Bowl. We all went to Jamaica last year and had a blast."
The Bulls have lost three times on the road already this season, with the team's first road-game win against Rutgers last week. They need three more wins out of four remaining games to be considered bowl-eligible, with two of those games being on the road. What advice do you have for the team as they face this tough task?
"I want them to know that their goals are still within reach. Take practice one day at a time. Don't dwell on what the media says, what the coaches say. Work as a team. Individuals are what lose games."
"[When I] intercepted at Liberty."
1999- USF's first 1-A opponent, "San Diego State, [and] all the hype associated with it. I was the most focused, on a different level altogether."
"Bill [Gramatica's] 63-yarder [against Austin Peay in 2000, the longest field goal in USF history and the 2nd longest in NCAA history].
-2001 USF First Teamer Award
-1999 Tested as USF's strongest secondary in the Spring
-1998 1-AA All-Independent Second Team
-1998 USF Defensive Playmaker of the Year
-1997 USF Rookie of the Year
-1996 Third Team All-State and First Team All-County (Jacksonville's Lee High School)
-1995 Second Team All-Conference (Jacksonville's Lee High School)
-1994 Best Defensive Back (Jacksonville's Lee High School)
The Record Book
-Interceptions: Most yards returned in a game (2001 vs. Liberty)- 86 yards (1 touchdown)
-Interceptions: Longest return (2001 vs. Liberty)- 86 yards for a touchdown
-Most passes defenses in a season (1999)- 19
-Tied for most passes defensed in a game- 5
-Tied for most fumble recoveries in a game- 2
-Interceptions: tied for 2nd with most interceptions in a game- 2
-Interceptions: 2nd in most yards return in career- 131 (7 touchdowns)
-Interceptions: 2nd most yards returned in a season (2001)- 86 yards (2 touchdowns)
-2nd in most passes defensed in career- 41
-Tied for 2nd in most career fumble recoveries- 5
-5th in career interceptions (7)