Commentary

Brown could learn from former stars

While Malcolm Brown prepares for his debut, former stars look back

Updated: August 28, 2011, 6:50 PM ET
By William Wilkerson | HornsNation.com

Of the 1.3 million-plus people in San Antonio, there are only a few local sports figures who know how to strike a chord with its residents' heartstrings.

[+] EnlargeMalcolm Brown
AP Photo/Matt StrasenTexas fans are hoping Malcolm Brown lives up to the hype and his winning reputation.

Since arriving in 1973, the Spurs, the city's only professional franchise, have been the best conductor.

However, a just-graduated high school running back from neighboring Cibolo is beginning to rival the Spurs.

Malcolm Brown has the jaw-dropping athletic ability, but it's his calm, that has Brown nearing superstar status.

"The best way I can describe it is to the effect Tim Duncan has had on the Spurs," Cibolo Steele coach Mike Jinks said. "When your best player conducts himself and goes about his business in the manor that Malcolm did, it's infectious."

In Brown, San Antonio had what is often found in the Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston areas -- the highly-touted recruit, who is also a winner.

With Brown carrying the load, Steele defeated Denton Guyer to win the 2010 Class 5A Div. II title. It was the school's first title at the 5A or 4A level since 1996-1997.

"The fact that he represents San Antonio and was able to win a state championship here for the city is great," said Pro Bowl running back Priest Holmes, who led San Antonio Marshall to the 1991 Class 5A Div. I state title game.

Holmes was a sought-after prospect in his own right, but not like Brown. ESPNU rated Brown the No. 7 overall prospect and No. 2 running back in 2011, and finished his career with 6,663 rushing yards (third-best in San Antonio history), 86 rushing touchdowns and a 9.8 yards per carry average.

Like Holmes, Brown ultimately chose the Longhorns, and his arrival is the most hyped for a running back since Cedric Benson came to Texas in 2001.

And because Brown, like Benson, joins a Texas team that has struggled mightily to run the ball, there is similar urgency for Brown to see immediate playing time.

Benson, who is entering his seventh NFL season, knew the pressure was there in 2001 to improve a run game that ranked 60th in 2000. Like his running style, Benson faced the pressure head-on. He would finish his freshman campaign with a team-leading 1,256 all-purpose yards, 1,053 rushing yards and 13 total touchdowns, all of which were Texas freshman records.

"I embraced the pressure," Benson said. "I was excited about it, excited about the challenge of the competition and playing against guys that were 21 and 22. I embraced it all. The pressure was nothing. It was excitement for me.

"I was young and eager to play. I think the pressure was fuel to the fire. I was really full of myself. I thought highly of myself coming in, and the pressure did nothing but excite me. I'd say I handled the pressure pretty well."

Benson credits then-Longhorns running backs coach Bruce Chambers for much of his early success.

"He was a very heart-felt guy, very kind," Benson said of Chambers, who is now Texas' tight ends coach. "He helped me adjust quite well to the college atmosphere and the college life as far as pointing out some things to me. But I was always poised, with the fact that I would come in and play, and be the starting guy."

Brown, who stands 6-foot-0 and weighs 217 pounds, comes to a program with a running game that finished 66th in 2010, 61st in 2009 and 41st in 2008. Not since Jamaal Charles, in 2007, has Texas' rushing attack ranked in the top 20.

[+] EnlargeCedric Benson
AP Photo/David KohlCedric Benson was highly touted coming into his Texas career and didn't disappoint in his freshman season.

It's not yet known what type of role Brown will play, as Texas coach Mack Brown has been careful in commenting about specific players. Senior running back Foswhitt Whittaker is back, and healthy, as is Cody Johnson, who has moved to fullback. The emergence of fellow freshman running back Joe Bergeron has also been a hot topic during fall camp.

All that said, someone with Brown's talents will be hard to keep out of the lineup, especially with the emphasis on the running game in new co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin's offense.

"If I could talk to him, I'd tell him, if he wants to be the man he has to work like the man," Benson said. "You have to put more work in than anyone else. You don't need to lead vocally, but lead by example. And always remember that there is someone out there working harder than you. So always find a way to get that extra work in."

For Holmes, being able to lean on fellow members of his recruiting class helped him. Especially considering when he saw his first game action as a freshman.

"My first game was OU," Holmes laughed. "But the pressure wasn't really there because of the guys that came in with me. We were such a close group. I think the same could happen with Malcolm, because he also came in with a very good recruiting class. This gives him an opportunity to rally around the guys that he came in with and really form a tight group within the small group of freshman. I think he can use that to his advantage."

Brown hasn't spoken with the media yet, so it's hard to judge how he's handling it all. But Jinks has an idea.

"Guys like him were born for these situations," Jinks said. "They just don't come around every day. Malcolm understands that he is just a piece to the puzzle. He's not going up there thinking he is the savior. He understands that if he can be the best that Malcolm can be, then that is more important than anything else."

The thing that sets everything in place, according to Jinks, is Brown's faith and doing things for the right reasons. Jinks said Brown never changed from the moment the coach moved him up in week 10 of his freshman year to the state championship game.

"He's not a vain kid," Jinks said. "He's humble, kind of an 'aw, shucks'-type. You'll see. Texas is going to fall in love with him."

When that happens, if it hasn't already, Brown will know just how to play Texas' heartstrings.

William Wilkerson covers University of Texas football and recruiting for HornsNation.com

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