Happy Demeanor Fuels Brown’s Improvement For WVU
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – It’s impossible not to like, and root for, WVU offensive lineman Mike Brown. The ebullient redshirt junior, who is locking down the left guard starting spot after seeing limited action in four games a year ago, is one of the happiest humans on the planet. No matter what the question, his answers are always upbeat, often injected with humor, and delivered with a smile.
He’s also unafraid to express himself, as he showed in a recent interview session when he appeared in an ie lava lava – a traditional form of dress for those of Samoan and Oceanic heritage that appears quite comfortable. It also, frankly, looks like a skirt to Western cultures, which was the cause for some razzing from his teammates.
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“Yeah, I got some comments from like ‘Why are you wearing a dress?'” said Brown, who did wear it to class in junior college but has not pushed it out to that level at WVU. “It’s all fun. It’s comfortable.”
Not to stretch the point, but getting Brown in a comfort zone has been an important task since the end of last season. A massive blocker with limited background in football, Brown has been learning lessons and techniques that many of his compatriots were exposed to years ago. That, along with the big step up in competition at a Power 5 school, provided him with some moments of doubt early on.
“There were a couple of times when I thought about football at this level, ‘I don’t know if I really like this,'” Brown noted of his early West Virginia career. “It’s hard, but you learn from it. As you continue to practice and play, it becomes normal. The hardest things were the speed and calling out things, like the formations. Listening and knowing what it means, kicking back (in pass protection), and fundamentals.”
That’s a laundry list of hurdles, but Brown approached them all with determination, as well as with good humor. Add in a reshaping, if not a total restructuring, of his body, and there’s been a complete makeover of his game.
“I’ve gotten way better physically,” said Brown, who arrived at WVU pushing 370 pounds. “I’m in the 340s and I don’t get as tired as I used to. Coming here in Division I football, everything is move, move, move. I hear Coach Brown, Coach Moore, Coach (Tyler Orlosky) yelling, ‘Move, move move. Start running, don’t walk ‘, and I’m ‘Ohh’.”
As always, there was humor to be found in the situation.
“Sometimes I’ll pretend I don’t hear them, or I’ll do a little fat man jog.”
Brown hasn’t faked his way through anything, though. Offensive coordinator Matt Moore singled him out as being one of the two most consistent offensive linemen in fall camp, along with senior tackle Colton McKivitz.
“Mike has come a long way, and he’s doing a really good job,” said Moore, who noted previously that WVU needed three linemen, along with McKivitz and Josh Sills to be either good or great. “He’s playing with good pad level, and plays the game really hard.”
With his size and strength, Brown has always been good in the run game. It has been his pass blocking that has needed work, and that apparently is improving too. He believes that he, along with his linemates, can achieve the standards laid out by Moore.
“We all can do that. I feel like as practice goes on we’re getting better and better. We’re all having a good time, and I think that is where greatness comes in. We are all talking to each other – I think that’s where greatness starts. It’s always great to play football, and play it with people you enjoy.”
Again, the natural joy and good-naturedness of Brown shines when he discusses the relationships he has with his fellow offensive linemen, and how much he has grown to love playing the game. That’s one of his foundations, and as long as it keeps fueling him, his play and improvement arc should only continue to trend upward.