James Brown is in Houston this week trying out for the new All American Football League slated to debut in April, 2008.
The 31-year old Brown was joined by former Longhorn FS Phillip Geiggar. Ealier this week, former Nebraska QB Eric Crouch announced he would play in the AAFL. The Texas team, which will likely base in Houston or San Antonio, is one of six inaugural franchises located in traditional college football hot spots. The Texas team opens play April 12 against Arkansas. Other AAFL clubs include Tennessee, Florida, Michigan and Alabama. Players are required to have earned a four-year college degree and have completed their NCAA eligibility. Former NFL players are automatically eligible for the AAFL's first Draft, set for January. Players are slated to earn between $50,000 - $100,000 annually. Former University of Houston AD Cedric Dempsey, a former nine-year president of the NCAA, will serve as AAFL Commissioner.
Q: Two days into tryouts, how are things shaking out for you?
JB: We had the tryouts this morning. Today was for guys who had played college football in Texas as well as in the Big 12. There was about 120 of us. I did some running and throwing and a few other little things. They told me I would be in the Draft next January 25. They said Phillip Geiggar, O.J. McClintock and I were in the Draft. I'm assuming I would be drafted by the Texas team, but you could be drafted by any team. Just by talking to people today, they said I would be drafted. But you never know. I'm definitely in a Draft pool.
Q: Does the Texas team already have a coach?
JB: I don't know but the coach that was out there today was (former) University of Houston coach John Jenkins. I asked that question after the tryouts and they said they didn't know for sure who the coach was going to be, but I heard before the tryouts that they were looking seriously at that guy.
Q: If you're drafted, what sort of commitment would the AAFL entail? Would you leave your job as an Austin appraiser?
JB: I don't think I could separate myself from the things I do daily. I'm not ready to separate, but I think I could manage it. It wouldn't be an eight-hour per-day job. Today, we were done by noon so I was able to work.
Q: What happens if you are drafted by an out-of-state team?
JB: My preference is to be drafted by the Texas team because of the things I have going on in Texas. If I get drafted by another team, I would just have to make a decision.
Q: There have been several attempts to launch non-NFL football leagues. Is there a legitimate reason to think the AAFL will have some staying power?
JB: They're definitely targeting college football areas. We'll still be playing college rules. You'll have college goal posts and college hashes plus some NFL rules, like on pass interference. They're taking the best things of college football and putting some NFL alums in. They're trying to use college fan bases and college names to generate ticket sales. All of the players will be college graduates. It keeps people from thinking that just thugs will be on the field, or guys that are not out there playing quality football and not have classroom smarts. It's just better when it's a clean game.
Q: Different subject: you mentioned last week that you were a 'firm believer' in the two-quartback system. Does that mean the system would work at Texas? Should Colt McCoy be sharing snaps with John Chiles?
JB: I think Chiles should continue to get significant playing time early in the game. He can be a change of pace and give a team a different look. But I don't think we'll see them splitting quarters or halves. Colt is the starter, and I don't think Mack Brown wants to have that controversy. Colt has enough pressure on him already. I saw Colt. I was walking out of the weight room and I said, 'You don't even know who I am.' He said 'No.' I introduced myself to him. He said, 'You were the man around here a few years ago.' The first thing he said was, 'It's tough, man. You can't lose around here.' He has a lot of pressure on him. I think we'll continue to use Chiles the way we have.
Q: How do you respond to people who say using two quarterbacks disrupts the rhythm, or disrupts the receivers because the ball's trajectory and velocity changes with each passer?
JB: Receivers practice with the quarterbacks every day, and they may catch five balls in a game. A receiver may catch 50 balls every practice. They're catching a lot of balls from both quarterbacks in practice, and being in a game shouldn't make a difference. It might make a little difference if one is left-handed. I think (the change of pace issue) is over-rated.
Q: Texas' game Saturday against Nebraska recalls the 4th-and-one 'Roll Left' play that sealed the 1996 Big 12 Championship for the Horns. During that game week, did you primarily practice it as a running play? How surprised was coach John Mackovic that you threw to TE Derek Lewis?
JB: People may be surprised at how little we practiced that play that week. That play has been in the offense forever. It was part of our goal-line package. We called it 'rock-and-roll'. If I hand the ball off, it's called 'rock', and it was 'rock right' or 'rock left'. If we ran the play-action pass, it was called 'roll right' or 'roll left'. It was a package that Mackovic brought with him (from Illinois). We had run it a couple of times on the goal line, but Mackovic thought it would work in the open field. We used it in the open field in that situation because we used Nebraska's strengths to our advantage. Nebraska was an all-out blitz team. They had a real strong defense and they could blitz eight men and still play us man-to-man. We used that to our advantage. The play is designed as a pass-run option. We had three running backs in the backfield -- Priest Holmes, Ricky Williams and Shon Mitchell. Nebraska had to respect our run because it was 4th-and-one, and because we had Priest and Ricky in the backfield. That would draw them in. And it did. Our tight end Pat Fitzgerald snuck out short. Derek Lewis was the tight end on the line of scrimmage and he took the corner deep. I turned my back to the defense to sell the run-fake, the handoff. I'm blind for a second or so. When I turned my head to come off of that handoff, I didn't know what I was going to see. So, I had to come out of there with the intent to run. That's what I did. I saw that I had a few steps on the defense because they went for the play-action. I had a second or two to look up field. Derek Lewis would have been the fourth option out of four receivers. 'Come to run' was the first option. I had Pat Fitzgerald short as the primary receiver. Derek was the last option on that play. Therefore, he was surprised that I threw it to him.
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James Brown (1994-96) guided Texas to three straight conference championships, including the final Southwest Conference and inaugural Big 12 titles. Brown ranks No. 2 all-time at UT in career passing yards (7,638) and third all-time with 58 touchdown passes.