Something doesn’t add up when you look at Max Brown’s recruiting profile. In his junior and senior seasons at Lincoln Christian School in Tulsa, Oklahoma, he completed a combined 71.6 percent of his passes for 4,416 yards with 68 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He also added 2,335 yards and 33 more scores on the ground. He produced a sparkling 41-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio as a senior.
He led the Bulldogs to consecutive undefeated regular seasons and appearances in the state championship game.
“Max is just a tremendous athlete,” Lincoln Christian head coach Jerry Ricke said. “He’s definitely your dual-threat type quarterback. He’s got a big arm, a live arm. A kid that understands what it takes to win, just great leadership skills, and he’s a guy that wants the ball in his hands in crucial moments in big games.”
Brown was also a standout shortstop and catcher on Lincoln’s baseball team and possibly could’ve played professional baseball if he had chosen to go that route.
His father is former Tulsa and Atlanta Falcons receiver Corey Brown.
So, Brown has gaudy statistics, athleticism, a track record of helping his teams win at a high level and an NFL bloodline. What’s not to like, right?
And yet, the final 247Sports Composite rankings had 95 quarterbacks ranked ahead of him. His only college offers were from Central Michigan, Temple, Washington and Florida.
Of course, it only takes one major school to believe in you in recruiting, and that’s exactly what happened with Brown. Billy Napier targeted him fairly early on after he accepted the Florida job. Brown took an official visit in late January, received an offer and flipped his commitment from Central Michigan shortly thereafter. He signed in February and is only a few weeks away from enrolling at UF.
“[Napier’s] a great guy, extremely down to earth, genuine, and I feel that he has a great plan for everybody, not just as a football program but as a university,” Brown said. “He wants to put the University of Florida back on top, and I’m all for it. He’s a great guy and a hard-worker as well. I can see that. Just being around him in the meetings and being around him at practice, he’s a guy you want to be around.”
— Max Brown (@mmax_23) January 25, 2022
So, why was there such a discrepancy between Brown’s statistics and his offer list? According to Brown and his high school coaches, it’s because he entered the recruiting scene relatively late. He didn’t take over as the starter until about halfway through his junior season at Lincoln, a situation that might remind you of former Gator Kyle Trask.
Many of the top quarterbacks in the 2022 class had been going to camps since they were in eighth or ninth grade and collected all of the stars and accolades.
By the time Brown was finally establishing himself as an excellent signal-caller at Lincoln, many college programs either already had a quarterback committed for the 2022 class or had narrowed their target list down to a handful of guys.
It can be difficult for players in Brown’s situation to draw attention that late in the process.
While Brown began his junior year as the backup, it wasn’t because he wasn’t talented enough. He transferred into Lincoln over the summer. According to Lincoln offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Kaelin Woods, they run a complex up-tempo offense that usually takes years for quarterbacks to master.
To make things even more difficult, that was the summer when COVID-19 restrictions severely limited how much interaction coaches could have with their players and how much access athletes had to the facilities.
“We had actually got quarantined week two going into that season,” Brown said. “We had been hammering film, but it had been really difficult since we weren’t able to meet as much due to COVID, and, really, it was just virtual meetings, and that’s where I really became familiar with the offense and came into my own.”
Given the circumstances, in Woods’ opinion, it was actually impressive that he learned the offense and got onto the field as quickly as he did.
“Running our offense is not easy,” Woods said. “Most of our quarterbacks are guys that have been in the system for a really long time. He had never been in a no-huddle offense before. He came in, and that was during COVID. We were pretty restricted over that summer, and a lot of that learning happens over summer. He came in, and he had from August to really start learning – practice reps, read progressions and all those things.
“He picked up on it really fast, and that’s what was most impressive with him was him being able to pick up on that in a short amount of time. That just shows you how he’s going to be able to handle a new program and a new scheme. He catches on really quick.”
It didn’t take long for the coaches to realize that they had a special player taking snaps. They hosted Jones High School in the second game of the 2020 season and trailed by two touchdowns at halftime. The coaches made a quarterback change and inserted Brown into the game in the second half. He led them to a 14-point win and made some big plays with his legs.
“He totally took the game over, and Jones is a very prestigious program in Oklahoma,” Woods said. “He physically took over the game with his rushing abilities and brought the team back and led us to a win. That’s when I knew we had something special because, when things were bad, he came through. You just saw a competitive side of him just saying that he’s got this.”
Brown didn’t take over the starting job for a couple of more weeks after that, but he quickly established himself as the type of player that rises to the occasion in crunch time. His coaches described him as the type of player who is so mentally tough that he can almost will his team to victory at times.
“Especially in crunch-time situations, he’s a guy that you can rely on, just his mental approach to the game,” Woods said. “He’s not going to be denied is kind of the attitude that he has. He’s got a fighter attitude, and he’s his best when things are tough.”
He then used his strong close to the 2020 season as a springboard into a dynamic senior season. He led a Bulldogs offense that averaged nearly 47 points per game.
— Max Brown (@mmax_23) October 2, 2021
Woods said that Brown’s biggest improvement during their two years together was on the mental side of things. That upward trajectory bodes well for his time at UF.
“He’s gotten really a lot better with his reads, his progressions,” he said. “He started to feel more comfortable in the pocket. So, those are some things he still needs to work on. Keeping his eyes downfield when there’s a rush, which he did a lot better at, but he still needs to improve in those things. And timing, being able to throw the ball before the receivers are open and seeing those windows.”
Ricke said that Brown’s receptiveness to coaching is what has allowed him to go from a high school backup to a UF quarterback in less than two years. He wants to get better every day.
“I just knew he was a kid that had some raw talent and a kid that just needed to figure out some of the finer details – reads on coverage, just taking the proper drops, speeding up how he gets the ball out and things like that,” he said. “He’s been able to do all those things just over the last two years because he works hard and he wants to get better and he’s very coachable.
“His arm talent is high. He’s able to make all the throws that you need to make in a college program, in the SEC. And then the head that he’s got on his shoulders, the confidence that he carries. He’s just a very dynamic personality, just a kid that a lot of people just want to get behind and follow. I think those are the big things that, when you meet him, he’s got a great personality, and you can just tell he’s a kid that is going to be successful in whatever he does.”
Brown picked up his first college offer from Central Michigan over the summer of 2021 and committed to former UF coach Jim McElwain on the same day.
“Coach McElwain recruited me, and he was a great guy throughout the whole process,” Brown said. “They were the first people to jump onto the scene, and it was a really good experience, kind of showing me that this is for real, and they were really professional in the way they did it, and I’m extremely thankful for that first offer.”
He was happy with his decision to be a Chippewa and was looking forward to playing there this fall. And then Napier called in December and changed those plans.
“[McElwain] was really understanding,” Brown said. “He’s a great guy, and he understood completely. That’s just not the path that I feel like God had for me, and I took the opportunity that Coach Napier had given me.”
Napier’s staff evaluated a handful of high school quarterbacks in the short time that they had to recruit the 2022 class, and Brown impressed Napier with a workout at his school.
“When you turn the tape on, you can immediately see the baseball background [with] the off-platform throws,” Napier said. “Really a natural thrower, a guy that is projected to be kind of a middle-round draft pick in baseball.
“Really a good-looking athlete. We think he has upside. He just started playing quarterback two years ago, and [he’s] a good runner. The guy can make some plays with his feet. We were able to go out to his school, observe him and were very impressed. So, there’s some pedigree there. The guy’s a winner. I’ve been impressed with his leadership skills, and I think his best football is in front of him.”
While Brown is the son of a former NFL player, he didn’t play football competitively until he was in the fifth grade. His parents wanted him to try other sports and avoid the big hits that come with playing football. He played soccer for a while and recently wrapped up his baseball career with a loss in the state tournament.
Eventually, though, he stepped on the football field, and football became his biggest passion right away. He envisioned himself playing under the bright lights on TV one day from the get-go.
“I fell in love with it from the very beginning, and I saw myself having a future with this, and this is something that I’ve really wanted to do,” he said. “I’ve always had a future in my head with it, and I’ve always had that as a plan. It really became a reality when I first stepped on the field and really wanted to continue it the rest of my life.”
Brown said that playing baseball helped him in several ways. Obviously, the throwing mechanics are very similar, but playing multiple sports also helped him become a more well-rounded person.
“It’s helped me in ways,” he said. “Just being leaders on different teams, being in different locker rooms and developing around a different group of guys has really grown me as a person and a leader. Being around different atmospheres on the baseball field and the football field has really grown me as an athlete as a whole.”
— Max Brown (@mmax_23) April 20, 2022
Brown figures to be fourth on the depth chart at UF this fall, and it wouldn’t be a shock if he doesn’t play in any games. He’s very much a developmental player with a long way to go in the passing game.
“Defenses are going to be faster,” Ricke said. “Reads are going to have to happen faster. I think any high school kid that goes to college, I think the biggest shock to their system will be the speed of the game.
“I think getting the ball out on time is a big thing he’s going to have to work on with the speed of the game in college. You have to throw it on time in college because everybody’s just faster and bigger and stronger.”
Because Brown was something of a late bloomer in high school, Ricke believes that he will have the necessary patience to see this thing through and steadily improve.
“I think he had to learn [patience] here, but that also gave him some drive to want to get on the field as fast as he can, whether that’s early, middle or late in his career,” Ricke said. “I think he’ll understand the process and take his time through the process, not try to speed through it. I think he’ll just understand what it takes and have a willingness to learn every day.”
Woods doesn’t expect Brown’s learning curve to last very long. He witnessed him learn an entirely new offense with limited assistance from the coaches in a couple of months as a junior in high school. The stage may be bigger now, but Woods thinks that he’ll handle this transition just as well.
“I think that, mentally, once he gets plugged in this summer, really starts getting into the routine, learning the schemes … I expect him to be ready when his number’s called,” Woods said.
“He’s going to be a program guy because he still has a lot of ability that hasn’t been tapped yet. Just straight playing experience, as each game goes by, he has continued to get better, and I would expect that, when he goes to college, the same thing is going to happen. The more reps that he gets, the better he’s going to get.”
If that is indeed the case, Brown could be the Gators’ next hidden gem at the quarterback position.