It was the first quarter of USC's Rose Bowl game against Penn State following the 2008 season. Aaron Maybin had just blown past Brown, sacked quarterback Mark Sanchez and forced a turnover. The play was nullified because of an offside penalthy on Maybin — who wound up being Buffalo's first-round draft pick a few months later.
"I was on his (butt) about Aaron Maybin getting around the corner on him," Ruel, the Trojans' former offensive line coach who was the Packers' assistant line coach in 2001 and 2002, told Packer Report for our latest draft exclusive.
"He said, ‘Coach, he was offsides.' I said, ‘I don't care if he's offsides or not. What did you do on your kick? Were you OK on your kick?' He said, ‘Coach, I'm going to tell you this right now. He will not make another play all day.' That's all I needed to hear as a coach. I watched him for the next few series and the guy didn't make a play all day. He was like nothing. I told him after that game, ‘You made a big turn, buddy. You're ready to take that next step.'"
It was a similar scenario this past season, when Brown was beaten by Arizona State sack artist Dexter Davis.
"He was so (mad) that he physically went after the guy and tried to drive him into the ground the next play," Ruel recalled. "To me, that's called growing up in the game of football. You're ready to take on all comers. It's like, ‘I'll show you, buddy."
Brown showed a lot of people as a senior and is perhaps the most-likely candidate to land in Green Bay with the 23rd pick of the first round. Brown was named to several All-American teams in 2009 and won the Morris Trophy as the Pac-10's top offensive lineman. That honor is voted on by the conference's starting defensive linemen.
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Ruel, who is on the speaking circuit and writing two books after Pete Carroll moved from USC to the Seattle Seahawks, has coached offensive line for 36 seasons, including stints with the Lions, Packers, Bills and Giants. He called Brown a "prototype" left tackle because of his height (6-foot-5), reach (35 1/4-inch arm length) and big hands (11 3/8 inches). Ruel called Brown one of the "most natural benders" that he's coached.
Brown was recruited to USC as a tight end, so he's got ample athletic ability to fit the Packers' scheme. A lack of experience at the position is about the only knock that Ruel could come up with about Brown.
"He's not as sharp as a guy who came out of high school playing offensive line," Ruel said. "I just wonder what he would have been like had he played three years of high school offensive line. He's got a lot of tools."
Brown spent his senior season at 295 pounds, and Ruel said Brown could "easily" get to 315 pounds without affecting his athletic ability. Brown weighed 303 pounds at the Scouting Combine, where he met with the Packers.
"The Combine went well," Brown said. "I got to see all the competition out there and got to show the scouts that I have weight on me and got to work out and do some drills in front of the coaches. The interviews went nice."
Brown would be the ideal first-round pick for the Packers. He excels as a pass blocker, which is a must for a team with a franchise quarterback and an aging left tackle. The Trojans run mostly zone blocking in the run game with some power.
"We were a lot like you guys," Ruel said.
If Brown needs a season to get stronger and more seasoned, he could watch and learn behind the crafty Chad Clifton for a year. Then again, after facing the likes of the Packers' Clay Matthews and touted prospect Everson Griffin day after day on the practice field, Brown might be just about ready to roll.
"I don't think I could have been more prepared anywhere else," Brown said. "I'm not sure how quickly I'm going to adapt to the NFL but I know I played against some real good players at SC that have gone on to do good in the league and gone to the Pro Bowl. I know my battles with Clay went back and forth. He got me some plays and I'd get him. He was really fast around the corner."
There are no character red flags with Brown, who said he spends his free time with his girlfriend or dog and likes cars. He's a quiet and humble man who's driven by his parents. His father, Charlie, died of liver cancer when Brown was 13. He has "Charlie" tattooed on one bicep and "Brown" on the other. His mom was left partially paralyzed by two aneurysms during Brown's freshman season and lives in a nursing home.
His life is about to change for the better as a near-certain first-round pick on April 22.
"Man, that's the big day," he said. "I've been thinking about it every day of my life. There's not much you can do but just wait now but it's in my head every day. I just try to keep working because that's the only thing that's going to help me out."
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.