July 9, 2008
Below is a feature on senior left tackle Pat Brown - courtesy Kane County Chronicle By ANDREW SEIDLER
Kane County, Illinois - Pat Brown isn't trying to rewrite history. He isn't saying he knew or even guessed he'd be in this spot three years ago.
Brown graduated from St. Charles North in 2005 as a 265-pound offensive lineman headed to a program with the nation's longest losing streak in Division I college football.
These days, preparing for his senior season at the University of Central Florida, the former North Star's 38-consecutive starts at left tackle are the most in the country.
The Knights posted a 10-4 mark and won Conference USA last season. Brown's blocking earned him all-conference honors as he paved the way for consensus All-American Kevin Smith, who led the nation in rushing with 2,567 yards. The team set a program record with 3,287 yards on the ground and 502 points.
Brown has received preseason recognition from multiple national publications heading into his senior season, is on the "watch list" for the high-profile postseason East-West Shrine Game and even has emerged as an NFL Draft prospect.
It's all a little hard to believe.
"From high school to right now, it's a lot more than I ever imagined," Brown said from the UCF campus, where he's spending the summer. "It's definitely different, especially as an offensive lineman, to get this sort of attention. I'm not used to it, but I like it."
Brown's success story took an unconventional trajectory.
Though he remains a somewhat undersized tackle at 6-foot-6 and a shade less than 300 pounds, his freshman year frame of 268 pounds wasn't even on the DI charts.
A redshirt season was the plan until UCF head coach George O'Leary decided he wanted his North recruit to play right away. Brown didn't see any action in his first collegiate game at South Carolina. But the next game, against South Florida, Brown got the start at left tackle in the first of what has become a nation-best streak.
"I never really figured out why they threw me into the fire right away," Brown said. "I Iet up a sack on my third play. That was an eye-opener. But I think my speed helped me adjust pretty quickly ... Since then, I've been starting, and it's not like I haven't had some injuries."
The worst one came last season at South Florida when Brown suffered a partial tear of his medial collateral ligament in his right knee.
Despite some significant pain, he sat out just a few days of practice before returning to start against Tulsa, rehabbing along the way. It's the sort of commitment and hard work that North football coach Mark Gould said marked Brown's high school career.
"When he was a freshman here, he was a B-Teamer and he weighed around 175 pounds. But already he was telling me what he was going to do on varsity and that he would weigh 270 pounds," Gould said. " ... He was always very goal-oriented, very focused, so it doesn't surprise us what he's done. But we are very happy and very proud."
While Brown does not have prototypical tackle size, UCF offensive line coach Tom Freeman said Brown makes up for it in other areas.
"Pat is a real fine athlete. I would say his biggest strength is actually the run game because of his balance and quickness and agility," said Freeman, who has coached at the Division I level for 33 years and mentored, among others, 12-time Pro Bowl selection Randall McDaniel at Arizona State. "But he plays the game physically and he's the epitome of a team guy. No doubt he can play at the next level."
Brown's father, Kevin, meanwhile, continues to be surprised by the huge success of Pat's college football career. Recently, he's even done a bit of preparation for the emerging possibility of a professional football career for his son.
"I definitely feel lucky to see where he is - it's way beyond our expectations," Kevin Brown said. "I don't want to say we're living a dream, but it's pretty exciting. We feel like coming from North, he's a local kid who wasn't necessarily the most naturally gifted athlete, but he's worked very hard to get where he is."