It is the game that is within the game that makes football just a little bit more fun for Big John Brown. Chasing quarterbacks down is lots of fun and so is a form tackle that plants a running back that leaves him gasping for breath when he hits the ground. Like all great defensive linemen, he loves a good hit but almost as much as the hits, he loves the trash talking in the trenches.
Once the ball is snapped, the talking ends. Then it’s 100 percent, all-out effort until the whistle blows. Once the two lines square off — the defensive line is just inches away from the offensive line — the talking begins in earnest. Back and forth it goes until the quarterback starts his cadence.
“Now I gotta admit I do a little talking,” said Brown, the 6-1, 295-pound five-star (by Scout.com) defensive tackle from Lakeland, who became the ninth five-star commitment for the Florida Gators Thursday. “It’s part of the game that’s fun for me.
“The offensive linemen talk a lot of trash but defensive linemen … well, we do our talking, too. It’s a battle throughout the whole game and I always win my battles and with Lakeland, we always won the wars, too.”
During his last three years at Lakeland, the Dreadnaughts never lost a war or a game. They won 45 games in a row, three straight state championships and two national championships and winning championships is important to Brown.
“I’m going from a national champion (Lakeland) to a national champion (Florida),” he said. “We’re going to win some championships at Florida, too.”
For some linemen, the closest they’ll ever come to a championship is out-talking the guy across the line in the trenches. John Brown admits he’s a big talker between plays, but what speaks most for the Parade All-American, one of seven Lakeland Dreadnaughts committed to the Florida Gators, is what happens once the ball is snapped.
Relentless pursuit of the football would be the best description of John Brown’s style on the football field. He’s got a low center of gravity and tremendous explosiveness which allows him to split the inevitable double team and he knows once he’s past the first two linemen, a fullback can’t be far behind. None of that matters, though. It doesn’t matter how many people are assigned to get in his way, he’s got one goal.
“I’m just going after the football,” said Brown. “I’m going to play hard as I can and run hard as I can after the football every play. I got to get to the ball. That’s my job.”
Once he gets to the football, the collisions are akin to an 18-wheeler broadsiding a Yugo. He loves to unload and he loves to listen once he’s made the big hit.
“Hitting hard is what I do,” he said. “I like to hit hard and make people remember me next play. After a few times hitting somebody they don’t want to get hit again. If I hit them real hard all the air goes out when they hit the ground. I like to listen to that.”
Brown chose the Gators Thursday to end months of speculation about where he was going to play college football. Ever since November, it was strictly a Florida-Alabama decision so he started looking over each program top to bottom, trying to figure out where he fit best. He liked both schools and the academic support systems they have in place so it came down to some other factors.
Both Florida and Alabama had the advantage of Lakeland teammates already committed. Alabama has running back Jamar Taylor coming in with their recruiting class of 2007 while Florida has tailback Chris Rainey, cornerback Ahmad Black, wide receiver Paul Wilson, offensive guard Maurkice Pouncey, offensive guard Michael Pouncey and linebacker Steven Wilks.
“I knew if I went to Alabama or to Florida I already had teammates and friends so that was good,” said Brown. The fact the Gators have six of his teammates gave Florida a slight advantage there.
He liked Coach Joe Kines, the defensive coordinator at Alabama under Mike Shula but when Shula was fired and Coach Nick Saban took over, Brown felt comfortable with the new coach and his staff. He was more familiar with the Florida staff, however, and that was another plus in the Gators’ favor but still, it took watching Florida’s defensive line play in the Tostitos BCS National Championship game against Ohio State to really seal the deal.
The Gators hammered Ohio State, 41-14, to win the national championship in a game where the Florida defensive line swarmed all over the place. Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Troy Smith had nowhere to go. He completed only four passes and was sacked five times, finishing the worst game of his career with only six yards of total offense. The Buckeyes only scored one offensive touchdown and gained just 82 total yards — 22 in the second half — against Florida’s dominating defensive unit.
“I already knew they [the Gators] could play,” said Brown. “They had the best defensive linemen in college football but you could see the way they played that they had the best coaching. I like Coach (Greg) Mattison (Florida’s co-defensive coordinator and defensive line coach) a lot. You could just tell that the defensive line coaching at Florida is the best. It’s got to be good coaching when you can dominate a whole game like that start to finish. That was a fun game for me to watch.”
He already had a good relationship going with Florida Coach Urban Meyer and with co-defensive coordinator Charlie Strong, who has been recruiting all the Lakeland kids for two years, but when they got back from the national championship game in Glendale Brown had some heart to heart talks with them that left him convinced that Florida is the place to be.
“Coach Meyer is a great coach,” said Brown. “Wherever he goes he knows how to make a team good. He has good players and good coaches like Coach Strong. I like them. I can talk to them.”
He says his mother would have been happy if he had chosen Alabama even if it is another seven hours up the road from Gainesville, but the closeness to home has her smiling. When he sees his mom smiling, it’s infectious. He always breaks into a smile when he makes her happy.
“She’s happy with my decision,” he said. “She would have been happy with Alabama too because she wanted me to go to a good college. I think it makes her happier that I’m closer to home because she won’t have to go far to watch me play and I can come home to see her more often.”
Now that the decision about where to go to college is over, he’s determined he’s going to work as hard as he can to get qualified to enroll at the University of Florida in the fall.
“It’s a lot of hard work that I got to do but you can’t succeed in anything if you don’t work hard,” he said. “That’s the only thing on my mind now. I can focus on my grades and I really think I can do this.”
He says that Gator fans can look forward to a defensive tackle that won’t ever quit on a play.
“Every play might be your last one you ever play,” he said. “You could get hurt. Anything could happen. You never know. You get hurt on a play and you didn’t give 100 percent and you know it … maybe you don’t ever get to play again after that … you got to live with that the rest of your life. If you get hurt and you know you were giving 100 percent, you can walk away from it. You’ll miss it. Yeah, you’ll miss it. But you can walk away.”