Stanford Eyes Another Alabama Gem

Stanford had a long drought of recruiting the state of Alabama from the mid-90's until this past February, when wide receiver Jai Miller jumped on board. Is it too much to ask for the Cardinal coaches to strike gold for a second straight year in the Yellowhammer State? Madison defensive tackle David Brown will be tough to wrest away from the in-state powers, but is well worth the fight.

In the event that I have yet to hammer home the importance of defensive tackle recruiting in this 2004 Stanford class, please allow me to repeat myself.  Stanford pulled in a grand total of zero DTs in the 2002 class and just a total of two in the three-year stretch from 2000 through 2002.  The Cardinal have been forced to move two defensive ends inside, and tried desperately to recruit a horde of interior DL in this most recent 2003 class.  While they succeeded in adding three potential talents to the roster, none of them fit the mold of the big-bodied defensive tackle that they hoped for in the form of a Carl Pendleton or Matthew Malele.  So the search continues in the 2004 class with ever-increasing vigor, and Alabama's David Brown is right at the top of Stanford's list.

Brown stands today at 6'3" and 260 pounds, and continues to add weight.  He weighed 240 pounds just this past fall and is coming into his own physically with a strenuous off-season regimen of weight training.  The Madison (AL) lineman from Bob Jones High School has increased his squat max from 500 to 550 pounds during the winter and his bench from 275 to 320.  Though he played a mix of tackle and end on the defensive side of the ball his junior year, his surge in size and strength makes him a natural choice as a fulltime DT this coming fall.

"I played some defensive tackle and some defensive end last year," he describes.  "I even played at outside linebacker - my position was modified for different game situations.  I get to the ball pretty quick and think I have good vision; I can see the offense's plays developing better than most people.  And I have good speed for my size.  I'll see a lot more defensive tackle this year because I'm bigger.  I feel like a totally different player, and I know that I'll get even bigger and stronger in the summer."

To say that Brown in an exciting talent is a gross understatement.  With a big body that will continue to grow, this Bob Jones junior has rare speed.  He runs a 4.8 forty and is explosive off the snap.  His combination of size and speed is so compelling that his high school coach is going to use him as a receiving tight end to bolster the offense this fall.  Brown previously has been used as a blocking fullback.

He already has garnered offers from Alabama, Auburn, South Carolina, Vanderbilt, LSU and Stanford, and that list will only grow as colleges get a load of the physical transformation this exciting defensive lineman has undergone.  Many pundits in the South rate Brown as one of the very top prospects, at any position, in the state of Alabama.  Some have hailed him as the #1 recruit in the state.  The recent pre-summer national Top 100 list released by The Sporting News contains the Madison talent, which puts him in very elite company.  By way of comparison for Stanford fans, a top 100 national rating that holds through Signing Day would put this DT on par with Mark Bradford, Trent Edwards, Julian Jenkins, Michael Craven, Amon Gordon and Kwame Harris.

But this Alabama standout is strikingly humble, if not apologetic about his lofty status.  "Just to be offered a scholarship to play football by anyone is an honor," Brown explains.  "This is a big step from Canada, with the level of football I saw there and the scant exposure."

You see, Brown and his family have moved all around the United States and Canada throughout his young life, as his father has moved from base to base in his Army career.  The youngster was born in North Carolina, moved to Kansas, then Indiana, South Korea (Seoul), Ohio, Canada (Ottawa) and for the last three years in Madison, Alabama.  "Since I have moved around so much, I have never been attached to one school," he relates.  That means that out-of-state suitors have a little less to fear from the local powers ('Bama and Auburn) that are pounding him with relentless attention.

But there is more to his school affiliations than meets the eye.  Though Brown spent the first 14 years of his life living outside the state of Alabama, it so happens that his entire family on both sides is concentrated in Birmingham.  Both parents attended Alabama, and his father pushes the Crimson Tide pretty hard at home.  The highly recruited junior has an older sister, though, who is attending Auburn on an academic scholarship.  She is a mathematics major, graduating this month, and embodies all the best in academic ambition and values.

Sounds like a tough row to hoe for Stanford, as they look to pry the second elite Alabama talent in two years away from the in-state powers.  Jai Miller was one of the most arduous and excruciating recruiting battles of the entire 2003 class, and its dramatic finale stopped the hearts of Cardinalmaniacs across the country when he announced his decision at his high school in a February press conference.  The final decision in favor of Stanford shocked the local experts, but I had maintained throughout the previous year that Miller could very probably be a Cardinal.  Why?  Because when I had talked to the two-sport star in person and on the phone for interviews, he carried himself extraordinarily well.  He was never stilted, nor pretentious, but it was as clear as day that he was an exceptionally mature and thoughtful young man.  He had a level-headness about him that helped him to see the wisdom of an out-of-state college decision, with a keen eye toward the educational value that only Stanford could provide him.  And though his grandfather (who raised Miller like a father) had pushed Alabama throughout, the Selma senior had the strength to make his own decision.

When I have spoken with David Brown this spring, I have been pleasantly surprised to find another very extraordinary young man.  Frankly, the hour he spent on the phone sharing his story with me left me convinced that we have stumbled upon another truly special human being.  Brown carries an emotional balance that eludes most high profile high school stars, and it comes through when he talks about a range of topics, from football to family to his future.  He is well-spoken and thoughtful in the answers he gives.

It shouldn't surprise you that his performance in the classroom mirrors his intellectual demeanor he presents in private.  Brown says that he carries a self-described "Stanford GPA" of core courses at a lofty 3.9, and he has posted an early 23 ACT score.  He says he is "definitely retaking" that standardized test in June, looking to climb even higher.

There is a cultural and intellectual fit that is impossible to deny between David Brown and Stanford, but can his familial forces that are pushing him to Alabama and Auburn be overcome?  The good news for the Cardinal coaches is that their recent scholarship offer extended to the defensive tackle made waves in the Brown household.  The Bob Jones junior says that his mother is big on education, and was impacted by the grand gesture from the elite academic institution.  He says that his sister was greatly affected by the Stanford offer, as well.  "My sister seems to have switched over to Stanford now," he notes.  "She understands the value of a Stanford degree and thinks it's a great opportunity for me."

Brown in fact names the Cardinal as one of his leading favorite schools, alongside Alabama, Auburn and Vanderbilt.  But the Tide had been the presumptive favorite until the highly publicized Mike Price scandal that rocked Tuscaloosa.  "Before the incident, Alabama would have been close to the top school for me," the elite tackle reveals.  "They were the first to offer me, and I really liked their coaches."

In yet another parallel to the Jai Miller recruitment of a year ago, upheaval at Alabama may help to provide a window of opportunity for Stanford to sink their teeth in and take an advantaged position.  For the moment, Brown certainly is enamored with the opportunity Stanford provides.  "I'm really, really impressed with the school," he proclaims.  "It's an honor to be thought of, much less offered by Stanford.  If Stanford was in the state, it would be an automatic decision for me.  They have warm weather all year, and I am really impressed by the average salary that Stanford graduates earn.  Football is great, but if I get hurt, I want something to fall back on.  The salary numbers really impressed me, my parents - and it even blew away my high school coach."

But the struggle that persists for Brown is the desire to be close to his family.  His mother dearly wants her son nearby, and California is about as far away an option as she could fear.  The sought-after recruit sees one avenue that might yet sway his mother, however.  "We'll definitely visit Stanford, which she might not want me to do," the son opines.  "She knows I'll like it and she's afraid she'll like it."

Brown also says that he has received the Stanford admissions application and is already going through it.  "I've started filling out the application, though the idea of applying surprised me," he admits. "Stanford requires that you get accepted before the offer becomes a full offer.  And this thing is a big booklet.  I'm trying to get it done as soon as possible."  The Bob Jones junior says he loves chemistry and math and is thinking of some kind of engineering to study in college.

That application and unofficial visit to The Farm will need to come early during the summer, though, as Brown says that his mother is pushing him to make his college commitment before the end of the summer.  We'll be sure to keep you abreast of all the developments between now and then for this exciting young man, who to the best of our knowledge is the only target in the entire state of Alabama that Stanford is recruiting in this class.

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