Since transferring here from City College of San Francisco, junior running back Tim Brown has been through spring practice, summer training camp, and now two regular-season games with the Owls. But he still can’t get used to one major aspect of life in Philly.
The Eastern time zone.
“I’m trying to get as much sleep as I can,” Brown said. “I’m still on California time, so I’m still trying to adjust.”
When he signed with Temple last spring, the Owls suddenly had a scatback-type RB to complement incumbent Umar Ferguson’s downhill running style. Brown had accumulated a resume full of junior college honors at CCSF, including the California Community College Football Coaches Association’s Most Valuable Offensive Player award in 2003, while helping the Rams to a share of the JC Grid-Wire National Junior College Championship last season.
Now if only he could stop nodding off in team meetings.
“He has shown that,” chuckled RBs coach Blair Thomas, referring to the mental fatigue he has seen from Brown. “But he’ll come around.”
Fortunately for Brown and his coaches, the 5-foot-8, 185-pound Stockton, CA, native has very few other adjustments to make. CCSF head coach George Rush ran an offense similar to Temple’s, so many of Brown’s reads, routes and assignments haven’t changed.
The Rams’ system was part of what endeared Brown to City College in the first place; he and his family felt the spread offense was the best stage to showcase his talents to Division I-A scouts, and that’s all it really came down to.
Brown’s father and older brother introduced him to Pop Warner as a boy to keep him out of trouble. He was determined to reach the highest level he could. An academic setback in high school didn’t discourage him, although it did make his path a bit more difficult.
“Coming out of high school, I had the grades but I didn’t pass the SAT in time,” said Brown, who knew Rush through his older brother Harry, Jr. “CCSF was one of the better schools I’d heard from at the time, other than Butte [College, near Sacramento].”
“At CCSF, I looked at it like [I did] in high school, when getting to a D-I program was going through my mind every play,” he added.
Now that he has gotten here, Brown isn’t resting on his laurels. The coaching staff has raved about his physical skills, but clearly feels he has areas that need improvement. After two games, Brown has rushed for 93 yards on 19 carries and is second on the team with eight receptions.
“He has a great feel, a great ability to make people miss in the open field,” Thomas said. “He has to work on protecting the football a little bit, though, because he did turn the ball over [against Virginia].”
Coach Bobby Wallace, who compared Brown to Hall of Famer Barry Sanders when introducing him last spring, expressed a desire to get his new running back outside the hash marks, where his athletic gifts shine.
“We’re trying to get him the ball in space, and I think that’s probably more important than him pounding it up the middle,” Wallace said. “It’s very important for us to have a running attack besides [quarterback] Walter Washington, and to take the pressure off [Washington] by running the football.”
The potential is limitless if the Owls can keep Brown in the here and now. When he isn’t struggling to stay awake, he can be energetic and hyper. Those traits have endeared him to his new teammates.
“Once you get a chance to be around him, he’s an easy kid to like,” Thomas said. “He kids around a little bit, but on the field he’s very focused.”
The knocks on Brown are his small size, his alleged tendency to fumble, and his deficiencies as a pass blocker. He knows the nation is littered with bigger backs whose coaches won’t be asked to justify their size and durability after every miscue.
Brown said he’s got those other backs beaten in a few important areas: toughness, patience and a willingness to do whatever it takes to improve.
The route he has taken to get here is proof.
Benjamin Watanabe can be reached at email@example.com.