Damian Prince describes "surreal" visit to FSU
COLLEGE PARK--Suspended running back Wes Brown stood before a group of young people as part of the long and winding road that the team laid out to lead him back to the Maryland football program.
He was supposed to talk to them.
Talk to them about responsibility and maturity and the reality that the window of opportunity can be slammed in one’s face at a moment’s notice, as his appeared to be when he had a run-in with police over the summer.
The charges of felony wiretapping, second-degree assault, and theft against him were all dropped, but he was suspended by the university for one year. If he hit certain benchmarks, his suspension would be reduced to one semester.
So there stood Brown to tell his story when he noticed a young man he recognized. He did not recognize him by his face, but rather his demeanor. His body language was negative. The message Brown was conveying didn’t seem to be sinking in.
He later confided in Maryland running backs coach Andre Powell and told him about the young man.
“‘When I looked at that kid,’ he said, ‘That was me,’” Powell recalled of his conversation with Brown on Wednesday. “He was able to call the kid out and talk to him, you know, one-on-one and say, “Hey man, you look like what I used to look like. You’re headed down a dangerous path.’”
For Brown, his window of opportunity has reopened, having hit those benchmarks and returned to the university. He is enrolled in classes for the spring semester while officially making his way back onto the crowded depth chart at running back for the Terrapins.
The narrative is that Brown has changed, though the sample size since his return in January is small. Offensive coordinator Mike Locksley says there is “no doubt” that he sees a different Brown, one who is altered by what he worked through in the fall.
“Any time you miss football,” Locksley said. “I think there’s an experience that comes along with it … to where they understand what it’s like to have something you enjoy taken away from you.”
And Locksley says Brown’s speech tour was part of that growth.
“What a great story to be able to go back to some of the young players that are coming up to understand that playing football is a privilege.”
But underneath the story of redemption is the reality of what Brown faces now.
Coaches say he has stayed in shape, though that is often different from football shape, and walks into a crowded depth chart that includes two players who split time in 2013--Brandon Ross and Albert Reid--along with contributing freshman Jacquille Veii.
“Is there emotion? I’m sure for Wes there is,” Locksley said. “For me, you know, the emotion is being excited to be able to have an integral piece back to utilize within our offense.”
Brown rushed for 382 yards on 90 carries and scored two touchdowns during his freshman season. As Maryland moves into the Big Ten with its zone-read offense, Brown figures to be a factor if he regains and builds on the success he found as a freshman.
But both Powell and Locksley care, too, about whether Brown’s change is genuine.
“He’s been back a month,” Powell said. “So time will tell.”