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Running Back Chris Brown Relishes His Role With Sooners
Successful running backs are reserved a special place in Oklahoma football history.
Their names are known as well, if not better than any of the legends marking OUâ€™s star-studded tradition.
Vessels. Owens. Washington. Pruitt. Sims. Dupree. Peterson.
First names not necessary â€” not when youâ€™re talking about the Sooner equivalent of super heroes.
Chris Brown, one in a trio of OU backs currently sharing the running back position, isnâ€™t hung up on his eventual place in Sooner history. In fact, heâ€™s quite content playing the role of sidekick.
Asked during a pop-culture Q&A interview which super hero heâ€™d be, Brown offered up this curve ball: Robin.
Not the Caped Crusader.
The Boy Wonder.
â€śWhenever Batmanâ€™s in a bad situation, Robin always comes to try to help save Batman,â€ť said Brown, a sophomore from Alexandria, La.
Brown has run to the Soonersâ€™ rescue several times already in his career.
When Adrian Peterson and Allen Patrick were missing with injuries a year ago, Brown stepped in to start in wins over Texas Tech and Baylor, going for a career-high 169 yards against the Bears. In reserve roles, he added 84 yards and two touchdowns against Colorado and ran for 74 yards and two scores on Bedlam rival Oklahoma State.
Itâ€™s been more of the same this season, generally as the third man in behind Allen Patrick and DeMarco Murray.
Whenever called on, however, Brown stands patiently ready. Like in a dogfight against Missouri, when he came on to run for three second-half touchdowns to ignite a 41-31 win.
Like in an unexpected struggle at Iowa State, when Brown scored two touchdowns after intermission to rally OU from a 7-0 halftime deficit to a 17-7 win.
â€śJust being patient and waiting your turn,â€ť Brown said.
So what if Brownâ€™s wait sometimes lingers.
Murray or Patrick are generally considered OUâ€™s top two options. And itâ€™s those two who typically get consistent early cracks against enemy defenses. Each has had his moments, some spectacular, fitting of a star quality back.
As for the sidekick Brown, heâ€™ll take his chances as they come, arriving at the scene in the nick of time, making the most of the occasional call to go get a few tough yards, or casting a different tone to the running game with his rugged style.
Against Missouri and Iowa State, Brown was summoned in the fourth quarter to provide a jolt to a struggling running game. And he was ready, each time showing up as the difference.
â€śThe whole game, youâ€™re trying to get everything going and some things are not working,â€ť Brown said. â€śBut you know youâ€™ve got one more quarter and youâ€™ve got to go balls to the wall, all out.
â€śThe fourth quarter is the time when everybody has to step up, bite down and get the job done.â€ť
Amazingly, at a time in college football when players are so clearly seeking starring roles, the rotation system seems to work for the Sooners.
Clearly, when Brown arrived at OU, he checked his ego at the locker room door. And his approach is a perfect fit on a team where team is stressed above all.
â€śIâ€™ll do whatever they need me to do, whenever they need me to do it,â€ť Brown said.
Running backs Cale Gundy has shown a knack for recognizing the right time to call on his three backs. Each offers something different.
Patrick combines speed and power. Murray is an elusive breakaway threat. Brown runs downhill and â€śheavy,â€ť always seeming to power ahead.
â€śItâ€™s great blocking for all our guys, because you know that at any point DeMarco or A.P. can run it 70 yards if you give them a little crease,â€ť said tight end Joe Jon Finley.
â€śThen Chris Brown is going to come in and work just like you do, heâ€™s got more of that offensive linemanâ€™s mentality, heâ€™s going to come in and punish people. He just complements the other guys real well.â€ť
Need a first down? Some media members have come to calling the hard-running sophomore â€śFirst Down Brown.â€ť
â€śWhenever they feel like itâ€™s time for me to be in, Iâ€™ll go out there and try to convert,â€ť Brown said. â€śThird-and-3, third-and-4, whatever, you know that youâ€™ve got to get it or youâ€™re going to punt it. The defense knows youâ€™re coming right at them.
â€śThat just gives you that much more of a boost to get it.â€ť
Itâ€™s careless, however, to tag Brown simply as a short-yardage back.
When asked to provide more as the feature back a year ago, he produced. Heâ€™s also shown soft hands in the passing game and some nimble feet in traffic. While he may never dazzle a defender with a swivel of his hips, then rip off an 80-yard run, Brown is capable of breaking off major gains.
â€śI feel like I can do other stuff than just short yardage,â€ť Brown said. â€śCatch the ball, 10- and 15-yard runs, that kind of stuff.
â€śBut weâ€™ve got a whole bunch of guys who can do the same thing, so itâ€™s whoâ€™s in on certain calls.â€ť
OU wide receiver Malcolm Kelly has witnessed Brown do some amazing things.
Yes, Kelly will agree, Brownâ€™s power can push piles. But heâ€™s seen him do more.
â€śWay more than that,â€ť Kelly said. â€śHe can give you six or seven yards every time he touches the ball. I wouldnâ€™t just call him a short-yardage back. He can do it all.
â€śOne thing I can say that people donâ€™t realize, he makes people miss in the hole. Itâ€™s not just flashy like DeMarco is, make somebody fall to their knees or nothing, but Chris makes a lot of people miss in the hole. Itâ€™s like, he got stuffed at the line at Iowa State, and he just popped out and got the first down. Heâ€™s elusive in his own way. He ran in the 4.4s the last time we tested.â€ť
Said Gundy: â€śChris is a guy who could handle 35 snaps a game very easily and be a 150-yard rusher, just like the other guys. The other guys are the same way. You give them 30-35 snaps a game, theyâ€™re going to get a bunch of yardage and make some big plays.
â€śBut Chris was a good player for us last year when we needed him. Heâ€™s as good as anybody we have back there in the backfield.â€ť
Brown joined the Sooners as one of the nationâ€™s top running back recruits. A two-time All-State pick, he ran for 1,685 yards and 22 touchdowns as a senior, when his stock took off. By the time he signed, Brown ranked as high as the No. 12 running back in the country by one recruiting service.
His final prep rushing numbers: an Alexandria-record 5,866 yards and 79 touchdowns.
You canâ€™t get to those totals in short-yardage situations alone.
Nic Harris, a former teammate at Alexandria High, helped bring Brown to Norman.
â€śIt just so happened we went to the same high school and we became good friends,â€ť Brown said of Harris. â€śHe was part of the reason (I came here). I didnâ€™t want to be too, too far from home. And OU is a nice school, plus Iâ€™ve got somebody up there I already know.
â€śSounded like a good fit.â€ť
No one at OU would disagree.
Not even Patrick or Murray.
â€śAll three of those guys, after one scores a touchdown, you see the other two walking out there to congratulate him,â€ť Kelly said. â€śWeâ€™re all really brothers in this thing. All three of those guys are more than capable of getting it done.
Whoever you have out there, you know they can get it done.â€ť
Brown doesnâ€™t even mind Murray and Patrick filling the hero roles.
As long as he can be sidekick.
â€śKind of like a humble servant. I like to help people. I like to be there for people. Just like my part in the team, just being there for the team and whatever,â€ť he added.
(Editor's Note: This story originally appeared in the Nov. 9, 2007, issue of Sooner Spectator.... subscribe today by calling toll free 1-877-841-8877)