June 26, 2013
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON - Josh Brown doesn't have to look up to Vinny Curry, although Brown does.
Brown can look at Curry, at least this week, as the latter visits his alma mater.
One of the newest Marshall University football defensive linemen and one of that unit's past greats have been spending the same afternoon hours in the Dunfee Weight Room this week.
The similarities, in some ways, are striking.
Curry came to Marshall as an academic non-qualifier, and succeeded not only on the field - where he was a Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year as a pass-rushing end and an NFL second-round draft pick by Philadelphia. Curry also got his degree from MU before heading to the Eagles.
Brown sat out a year working on the books, too, and hopes to follow in those large footprints ... while also wearing Curry's former Herd jersey number, 99.
"The great thing about it is I've got Vinny's number now," Brown said earlier this week after his two-hour weight room session with his new Herd teammates. "I kind of look at it like he's the `ideal' for me. I used to watch some of his highlights when I was younger. Having him around is special for us.
"I've talked to him a little bit. I didn't want to go up to him and be like, `Hey, I've got your number!' or anything like that. I just wanted to let him know I'm in his shadow and hope I can follow in his footsteps."
Brown, after sitting out a non-qualifier year and passing 24 hours at Marshall, is joining a 2013 defensive tackle bunch led by returning starter and senior Brandon Sparrow. Brown is anxious to hit the field in August camp, and the Herd coaches are enthused to see him in No. 99, too.
Curry has taken note of Brown, too.
"Big Josh, he was a `prop' this past year, but he's got a bright future they tell me," Curry said. "Hopefully, he'll help out with the D-line and the depth and go far ... It's the same path I was on, and 99 is definitely special to me.
"I'm anxious to see what he going to do with it. I definitely hear lot of good things."
No one among the Herd will be surprised if the 6-foot-5, 303-pound Brown challenges for playing time. But the one-time Clemson signee doesn't want to get ahead of himself.
"It's been a journey," Brown said of landing at Marshall, where he never took an official visit as a star at South Aiken (S.C.) High School. "It's been hard at some times, long (sitting out) at some times, but I had to keep focus.
"You tell yourself, `This is something I wanted to do.' This is where I wanted to be, so you stick with it. I'm here because Marshall and Coach (Doc) Holliday gave me a chance. That's all I wanted. They stuck with me.
"In high school, the dream is to play college football and they gave me a chance so here I am working hard, taking it day-by-day, living the life of football again."
The 2012-13 year he sat out could have been Brown's high school senior year, but he graduated in three years thanks to summer and online courses because he played high school football as an eighth grader, so he had no eligibility remaining after his junior season.
"Things not working out at Clemson was a big disappointment, but that's life," Brown said. "You have disappointments in life. That's part of life. I've been through a lot of trials, people saying `no' to me, and you deal with it. This was something I just had to face and it helped so much that my family had my back, my coaches, too.
"Overall, I got to a better place."
Brown considers himself fortunate to be pointed toward the field again, too, after getting broadsided in the front passenger seat of a pickup truck in a January 2012 wreck.
"It was pretty scary," Brown said. "I was with a girl who I really wanted to be with, a first date, and we got in a wreck. She was driving. They hit my side and it was bad, the other driver ran right through an intersection. They hit my side, but she got kind of banged up. I was OK."
Herd defensive tackles coach J.C. Price is intrigued about adding Brown to the mix inside.
"On film, Josh was a pretty good high school player," Price said. "He must have been since he signed with Clemson. He's a guy who, during last fall, was overweight and out of shape. He was about 320 and we wanted him to get down to 300, and he did that, and now he's put himself in position to get out there and run around and look and act like a D-lineman.
"We're excited about him. We obviously haven't seen him practice yet, a guy we think potentially has a big upside. But he hasn't done anything in a year, so we'll just see how it goes."
Brown was the No. 19 prospect in South Carolina in the class of 2012 (by Rivals.com). In his only full season at defensive tackle for South Aiken, he had 90 tackles (22 for losses) and 8 sacks in 10 games. He ran a .4.89 in the 40 in high school and bench pressed 370 pounds (520 squat).
Asked if he brings more power or speed to the field, Brown said, "It's aggressiveness.
"I have speed, I have power, but what I'm going to do is what Coach tells me to do, give Coach my aggressiveness and hard work and see what happens in future. I really hope and pay I can be that `it' guy, but right now I'm just a guy."
He has spent his time since becoming eligible bonding with teammates and trying to learn who's who. His "ideal goal" is 295 pounds, and he figures he'll get there in the heat of August drills, if not sooner.
"I'm in good shape now, but I can get into better shape," he said. "After being out, it's still difficult today. I'm still trying to learn and get in touch with and know some of the older guys. I'm taking it day-by-day, working out, and bonding during our free time."
Brown is majoring in sports management. He calls the NFL "a great goal, but being realistic, what I want to do is coach the game. I'd love doing that, anywhere they give me a shot."
The remainder of summer weight and agility drills await Brown. Then, it's August camp and an Aug. 31 opener against Miami of Ohio at Edwards Stadium.
The new No. 99 refuses to get ahead of himself.
"Whatever happens, it happens," Brown said. "The upcoming camp, I want to take my time, just want to work hard and understand my role as a freshman, I'm not a sophomore, junior or senior.
"I want to work hard, fit in that way, so when the time comes for the games, Coach will look back and say, `We've got Josh, give him a shot.' I just want a chance.
"Since I last played (November 2011), it seems like it's longer sometimes, but I don't think about it, to be honest with you. I'm so caught up in what's going on right now. That was the past. You can't go back. I'm just glad to be here, to have an opportunity to play college football."