Camp Visit Yields Commitment

Darren Brownlee didn't plan on making his college choice so soon, but the family atmosphere he found at West Virginia led him to become WVU's fourth verbal commitment in the class of 2005.

"The coaches and stff just embraced me there. I felt like it was a second family," Brownlee said of the one thing that led him to pick the Mountaineers. "The coaches were just outstanding. Coach Stewart and Coach Rodriguez treated me like a family member. Coach Rodriguez even introduced me to his wife - that was a great honor."

The extremely polite and well-mannered Brownlee (he punctuates every answer with an emphatic "sir"), verbally committed to West Virginia after competing in WVU's seven on seven passing camp over the weekend, but he didn't do it on the spot.

"I talked to my parents and my coach before I accepted the offer," the Northwest Jaguar noted. "I already knew a lot about West Virginia. I had researched them on the Internet before I went to camp, and I knew a little bit about them from their games against Maryland. I wanted to make sure I talked it over with them before I made the decision.

While many recruits on their first visit to West Virginia are often surprised by WVU's facilities or some other aspect of the school, Brownlee wasn't - mostly due to his research. He did, however, reiterate that the treatment he received from the coaches played a big part in his decision to accept their scholarship offer.

"I do like the way everything is close together, and I could see how things would be in the stadium, but the coaches were really the ones that took me by surprise. It was just like another family there. The players and coaches were tight, and I was so happy when they offered me."

Brownlee's Northwest team won WVU's tournament with an unblemished record, defeating George Washington High School of Charleston, W. Va. in the finals. That was simply icing on the cake for the explosive wideout, who knew the importance of the camp.

"The coaches told me that wanted me to play big," Brownlee said of his pre-camp challenge. "They wanted to see me play well against the other teams."

That he did - good enough so that an offer was quickly forthcoming. But perhaps even more impressive than his on the field play is his character and selflessness.

Asked to name his strengths on the field, Brownlee responds "my ability to be a team player". That's rare in this day of focus on personal statistics and achievements, and is one that's backed up by almost everyone that comes in contact with the him, including his coach Randy Trivers.

"I'm blessed to have Coach Trivers," Brownlee said. "He coaches me in both track and football, and he helps me in both a lot. Some of what I do in track, especially the jumping and the explosive maneuvers, help me in football."

Brownlee is a 6-4 high jumper and has recorded a personl best of 14.6 in the 110 meter high hurdles. He finished second in the county last year in the hurdles, and hopes to add state honors to his resume this year. Those track abilities translate well to the receiver position on the football field, and allow him to go up and catch the ball over defenders and make big plays.

However, his football senior season comes first, Before track season, however, Brownlee and his teammates (including highly-regarded quarterback Ike Whitaker and Clemson-bound running back Tony Nelson), have their eyes on a state title. To achieve that goal, Brownlee has some things he wants to improve upon.

"I want to improve my yards after the catch," said the selfless wide receiver, who had 31 receptions for more than 500 yards and 12 touchdowns as a junior, including one TD reception in 11 straight games. "I want to be more elusive and get more yards for the team. Anything I can do for the team, that's what I want to do.

"I usually just take things year by year, and I wasn't planning on committing this early. But everything was just great at West Virginia. I'm still a Jaguar, though.

"Now that I've made the decision, that's where I'm going. I might go to another camp with my teammates or to work on fundamentals, but I've made my decision. I'm coming to West Virginia."

Just as they have in the past couple of recruiting seasons, WVU appears to have gotten a great player with an early offer. Schools such as Penn State, North Carolina, Connecticut and Marshall all had heavy interest in Brownlee, but none had yet made a formal offer.

"I was at Penn State's camp before West Virginia's and they told me I was under serious consideration for a scholarship," the 6-2 receiver said. "They asked me stay after many of the other players had left, and told me they were very interested in me."

None of those schools were quick enough on the draw, however, and West Virginia's offer was enough to get the talented wideout into the class of 2005.

Qualifying should be no problem for the athletic Brownlee, who has a 3.3 GPA in courses including honors English, Spanish (three years) and pre-calculus. Brownlee hasn't decided on a major, but is interested in engineering. He credits his "great parents" for keeping his attention on academics as well as football - a task they obviously performed very well.

"I've thought about a major little bit, and another thing that sold me on WVU was their engineering school," Brownlee said. "Coach Rodriguez told me about the school there. I still have a lot of time to decide, so I'm not in a hurry to make that decision."

West Virginia fans, however are glad that the decision of his college choice has been made in their favor.

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