Vikings visitor: MLB Preston Brown
University of Louisville Cardinals
Northwest High school
It was a bit of a head scratcher when Brown's in-state college choice, Ohio State, never gave the three-star prospect a scholarship offer after his stellar career at Northwest High School. He did accept an offer from local University of Cincinnati, but later changed his mind and enrolled at Louisville. It was like a "marriage made in heaven" for the hard-hitting tackler, as he would go on to become the grand prize from former head coach Charlie Strong's first recruiting class.
Strong is a master at devising defensive schemes and in Brown he found the perfect conductor for what he wanted to "orchestrate" on the field. After 301 tackles that saw Brown lead the team in that category in each of his final two campaigns, it would look like the coach and his student made beautiful music together.
At Northwestern High School Brown excelled on both sides of the ball, competing as an outside linebacker and fullback for head coach Jeff Neal. He earned three-star status from Scout.com, as that recruiting service ranked him 98th among the nation's linebackers.
ESPN.com placed Brown 67th among the prep linebacker recruits and the first-team All-District selection had as many schools interested in him for his ball carrying skills, as much as others wanted him to stop running backs. As a senior, he recorded 31 tackles and rushed for 973 yards with 12 touchdowns on 143 carries. In the Glen Estate clash, he set the school record with 249 yards and four touchdowns on just thirteen attempts, adding 191 yards with five scores toting the ball vs. Finneytown.
After backing out of his commitment to Cincinnati, Brown saw immediate action on special teams for Louisville in 2010. Listed third on the depth chart at middle linebacker, he posted 10 tackles that included his first career start. He started 11 games at strong-side outside linebacker the following season, picking up All-Big East Conference honors after he finished third on the squad with 84 tackles, making five of those stops behind the line of scrimmage.
Changes would occur on defense for Louisville before the start of the 2012 season. The coaches felt that Brown was the prototypical linebacker for Charlie Strong's defensive system, as he showed ability to run and play physical, requisites to play middle linebacker for the Cardinals. Looking to fill the void left by the graduation of 2011 leading tackler Dexter Heyman, the staff felt that Brown could make the seamless transition.
Louisville linebacker coach Brian Jean-Mary felt that Brown would elevate his game even higher with him stationed over the opponent's center. He was also highly capable of dropping back into pass coverage, which was a bit of an issue with Heyman in the middle the previous season.
"I don't want my expectations for him to be higher than it is for himself," Jean-Mary said before the 2012 season opener. "I think he's getting to that point where feels like he can be a dominant figure and he wants to go out and show it on Saturdays." The coach was hoping that if Brown played to his potential, it could be an indicator of big things for the entire Cards defense. Louisville ranked 23rd nationally in total defense in 2011 and would again seal that spot in 2012, but bigger and better things would come during Brown's senior campaign.
"You like to have your linebacker to be the best player on your defense," Jean-Mary said. "I think it's probably true in a lot of places if your middle linebacker is one of your better players you have a chance to have a special defense." Brown thrived in his new role.
The Cardinals had finished with matching 7-6 records during his first two seasons at the school, but the new middle linebacker led the team with a career-high 109 tackles, as the squad compiled an 11-2 record in 2012, which marked just the fifth time since Louisville began playing football in 1912 that they had a double-digit victory season.
Brown again led the Cardinals in tackles as a senior, delivering 98 stops, including career-highs of 4.5 sacks and 12.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage. The team had perhaps their season ever, leading the nation in total defense (251.5 ypg) and rush defense (80.7 ypg) for the first time in school history.
Only one other team, Michigan State (252.2 ypg) held opponents to lower than 280 yards in total offense per game in 2013. The Cardinals were also one of just three major colleges to limit opposing ball carriers to under 100 yards per game, as they were joined by the Spartans (86.6 ypg) and Stanford (89.4 ypg) in executing a near-flawless defensive game plan. That dominance led to a 12-1 record for Louisville, matching the most victories ever recorded by a U of L team (2006 squad also went 12-1).
Brown would play a major part in his graduating class being the only one in school annals to record at least 10 victories in multiple seasons. With Brown in the middle, they went 23-3 (.885 winning percentage) and had a 30-4 record (.882 winning percentage) in games that the linebacker started for the university.
Before thrashing Miami, 36-9, in the 2014 Russell Athletic Bowl, Louisville closed out their 2013 regular season schedule with a visit to Cincinnati, where Brown almost ended up being a Bearcat. Playing in front of family and friends was the best way for the linebacker to culminate his career. "Yeah, I've had some people asking about getting tickets to see me play," he said. "I'm sure there will be some family and others at the game."
"The Cincinnati game is a really big game," he told Cardinal Authority on Sunday evening. "We're looking forward to going up there and playing are hardest." For Brown, it was his final opportunity to play in his hometown as a Louisville Cardinal. He did not disappoint, making a crucial tackle-for-loss among his eight tackles to lead the Cardinals to a stunning 31-24 overtime victory.
After pledging to Louisville, Brown told Scout.com that he was "going to help put Louisville back on top." As he looks back on his four-year career, Brown has to be pleased with the accomplishments and direction of the program. For the first time in school history, the team won ten or more games in back-to-back seasons, reached four-straight bowls, won a pair of conference titles, and recorded three post season victories.
"My first two seasons here we were 7-6 and everyone was happy," Brown said. "These past two seasons show that our hard work is paying off. We've done something that no other teams have done this year and we're going to bowls again. The future looks good." He's also helped Louisville claim the annual trophy games.
Brown started 36-of-52 games at Louisville, lining up with the first unit for 11 games at strong-side outside linebacker as a sophomore before starting his final 25 appearances in the middle…Became just the 12th player to lead the team in tackles in multiple seasons since the Cardinals officially started compiling defensive records in 1962…Finished ranked 27th among active NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision players with 301 total tackles and placed 28th with 179 solo hits, as he registered seven sacks for minus 50 yards, 21.5 stops for losses of 80 yards and ten quarterback pressures…Gained 48 yards advancing one of two fumble recoveries, as he caused three fumbles, deflected five passes and intercepted another.
No injuries reported.
4.86 in the 40-yard dash…1.72 10-yard dash…2.85 20-yard dash…4.26 20-yard shuttle…6.98 three-cone drill…33-inch vertical jump…9'-8" broad jump…Bench pressed 225 pounds 23 times…33 ½-inch arm length…10 ¼-inch hands…81 1/8-inch wingspan.
Brown attended Northwest (Cincinnati, Oh.) High School, playing football for head coach Jeff Neal…Earned three-star status from Scout.com, as that recruiting service ranked him 98th among the nation's linebackers…ESPN.com placed Brown 67th among the prep linebacker recruits…First-team All-District selection as a senior, recording 31 tackles and rushing for 973 yards with twelve touchdowns on 143 carries…In the Glen Estate clash, he set the school record with 249 yards and four touchdowns on just thirteen attempts, adding 191 yards with five scores toting the ball vs. Finneytown.
Brown is a General Studies major…Born 10/27/92 in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Dave-Te' Thomas has more than 40 years of experience scouting for the NFL. With the NFL Draft Report, Thomas handles a staff that evaluates and tests college players before the draft and prepares the NFL's official Draft Packet, which is distributed to all 32 teams prior to the draft. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
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