Legend has it that Paul Bunyan was so large he used wagon wheels to button his shirts; large enough that his footprints created the 10,000 lakes in Minnesota and massive enough that he dug out the Grand Canyon simply from dragging his axe behind him.
Of course, Bunyan is a mythical character. No human is big enough to do those things. Well, except for one player on Florida’s roster.
Standing at 6-8 and a trimmed down 361 pounds (he was around 380 pounds when he signed his letter of intent to Florida) Trenton Brown is Florida’s real life Paul Bunyan.
“I feel like a child next to him,” 6-3, 303-pound center Jonotthan Harrison said this fall. “He can be a monster as long as he puts his mind to it and we’ve been seeing that.”
Brown’s journey to Florida began in Albany, Georgia — the eighth largest city in the state and approximately 194 miles away from Gainesville and 198 miles away from Athens. The next step on the journey is Jacksonville, the largest city in north Florida and home to the annual Florida-Georgia game (3:30 p.m., Saturday, CBS) where Brown is expected to get an opportunity to contribute for the Gators.
There was a time when Florida-Georgia might have meant another venue for Brown. His first love was basketball, a game he played well enough to earn scholarship offers from UNC Greensboro and Old Dominion but obviously, Brown had a different path in mind.
His chose football, which took him to Georgia Military College where he played two seasons and was named NJCAA second team All-American. Brown told Gator Country last summer that he uses having to go to a JUCO out of high school as motivation.
“A lot of people from my hometown didn’t think I would make it this far,” Brown said. “I was down in a lot of people’s minds. I still got some more proving wrong to do, but it’s coming.”
It took some time for Brown. When he signed with Florida he was a staggering 380 pounds, a good 50 pounds heavier than the coaching staff wanted him to be. He worked hard to trim down before arriving on campus this past summer and is now down to just over 360. He still has work to do — the staff wants him to be around 350-350-pounds ideally.
Brown fell a credit shy of being able to enroll in the spring instead enrolling with most of the freshmen class this past summer. It took some time for Brown to adjust to the new level of play but eight weeks in and things are starting to click for the massive offensive tackle.
“Since he’s gotten here he’s gotten a lot better technique wise, fundamental wise,” left guard Max Garcia said. “I feel like he could be a big part of our offensive line.”
At 6-8, Brown’s biggest challenge is maintaining leverage and staying low out of his stance. Garcia said that Brown has worked on that and is learning that just because he’s bigger doesn’t mean he can bully defensive linemen.
“You know, you just can’t be bigger than some guys; you gotta go out there and show that you’re better than them,” Garcia said. “You can dominate, you just can’t assume that you’re going to go out there and dominate guys just because you’re bigger than them.”
Being bigger than everyone else on the field does have its advantages. You won’t see many defensive ends try to bull rush Brown. Most defenders opt to test Brown’s feet, trying to speed rush in order to get around him. It’s something he’s used to seeing every day in practice going up against Dante Fowler and Jon Bullard.
“At 360, you’re probably not going to get pushed back quite a bit and bull rushed. That kind of limits maybe what other guys can do,” offensive coordinator Brent Pease said. “So, they’re going to use more speed factor to get around you. In doing that, you’ve got to compensate for what they’re going to do.”
The clock was ticking for Brown the moment he stepped onto campus and he knew it. It may be his first season in Gainesville but he’s already a junior and Brown knew that he had to catch on fast if he was going to be the impact player that both he and the coaching staff think he can be.
“He’s kind of been a little bit more motivated; I guess you could say, being, just the way things have been going,” Garcia said. “He’s going to have an opportunity to play this week so I’m really excited for him. You can see that he has a fire in his eye right now.”