Running backs coach Ted Williams had a connection to Bryce Brown — someone with an eye, apparently, for exceptional talent.
“I have a friend who lives in the town where he grew up and knew him as a child. I have a lot of faith in this person,” said Williams, his smile growing, “because he also lived in the same town where Albert Pujols grew up. He knew Pujols when he was a high school junior. When he said Bryce Brown can play and he’s the real deal, take that to the bank.”
Of course, Williams’ inside guy wasn’t the only one who knew just how fabulous a high school player Brown was. The 6-foot, 220-pounder from Wichita East High School was considered the top recruit in 2008. He left Tennessee after his freshman year, however, reportedly citing depression and a feeling that he did not fit in. He transferred to Kansas State and sat out the 2010 season, then played in just one game before leaving that program as well.
It would take more than just a solid recommendation to convince the Eagles that his head is now in the right place.
“I worked him out, I spent time with he and his family and I got to know him,” said Williams. “I don’t think everybody put in that kind of time. He was a guy that was off the radar based on the fact that he played one year of college football.
“In my heart of hearts, he’s on purpose. He has given every impression that he is willing to take the next step.”
Brown was not eager to talk about the past upon arrival at Lehigh Sunday, but said he is now in a different place mentally.
“I think so,” said Brown. “I’m happy. I’ve always wanted to play football at the next level. Things happened in college that I’m not going to discuss…but this is definitely an opportunity for me, and I recognize that.”
Brown said that Adrian Peterson and Reggie Bush are two backs that he admires and tries to emulate. He appreciates their versatility and wants to be a player that can be a factor both in the receiving game and as a blocker. The latter will be a particular challenge for Brown, who said that he has “never” pass-blocked but is willing to learn. The Eagles won’t keep you around if you can’t handle that element of the game.
As Sheil points out, nobody played more snaps than LeSean McCoy last year and it may have affected him down the stretch, as he averaged 3.4 yards per carry over his final five games. Andy Reid is on record saying he wants to lessen McCoy’s load, and Dion Lewis has yet to distinguish himself as the man capable of picking up the slack. That opens the door for Brown and fellow rookie Chris Polk to steal a roster spot, and maybe even some carries in 2012.
“He is an excellent prospect,” said offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg. “I know this: He has a great opportunity here, and let’s see if he can make the most of it.”
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