This article was originally appeared in The Observer on October 2, 2015. It has been republished with the author’s permission.
Over the past couple seasons, Irish quarterbacks have found a bevy of targets for their throws.
Junior Will Fuller certainly has hit his stride in the open field and found end zone plenty of times, but he’s far from the only option offered, with graduate student Amir Carlisle, senior Chris Brown and juniors Torii Hunter Jr. and Corey Robinson all seeing spirals fired their way.
While any one of those players could get the ball on any given play, Irish head coach Brian Kelly said one player in particular stands out in the receivers’ room at the Guglielmino Athletics Complex, on the field at LaBar Practice Complex and on the sidelines on game day.
“If you ask who that leader is of the wide receiver corps, it is Chris Brown,” Kelly said Tuesday. “Chris is the leader of that group.”
With Carlisle shifting over from running back and the three then-sophomores with limited, if any experience, their freshman seasons, Brown became the go-to veteran in the receiving corps in 2014 because of his experience, an opportunity he jumped into.
“It was unfortunate enough I was the oldest one in the room, and we had a lot of young guys, so I felt like being a leader would definitely help not only myself grow but everyone around me,” Brown said. “I felt like if I did that, it would make us better, and I felt like it has.”
It’s not only his coaches and fellow receivers who have noticed the leadership the senior has shown his past two seasons.
“Ever since day one, ever since I’ve been here, he’s always been a leader,” sophomore quarterback DeShone Kizer said. “He’s always the first one in the receivers line. He’s always the first one in the practices. He’s the last one to leave. He’s the first one to hit you — that want and that fire to be great. Once the ball is in his hands, he’s going to do great things with it.”
So far this season, Brown has caught 14 balls for 178 yards, averaging 44.5 yards per game. Two of those grabs have gone for scores, including a seven-yarder from Kizer against Massachusetts last week.
Kizer called the Hanahan, South Carolina, native “a heck of an athlete,” but Kelly said it’s not Brown’s physical attributes that make him stand out among his teammates.
“He’s a gamer. He’s a kid that gives everything he has,” Kelly said Sept. 20. “He’s not as smooth as a Will Fuller. He’s probably not as talented as a Torii Hunter. Doesn’t have the size of a Corey Robinson, but boy, he’s got a huge heart. He gives you everything he has, and that’s what you love about him.”
That enthusiasm shows on game day, when Brown, who said he normally uses a lead-by-example-type approach with the receivers, can be seen congratulating any and every teammate he can find after a big play.
“On game day, I want everyone’s energy up,” he said. “I don’t care whether we’re up or down. I keep my same demeanor; I keep my same up-tempo talk, and that’s just how I feel. I just let it go when it’s game day, and I feel like they respond well to that.”
Though the depth and across-the-board talent of the receivers group can prevent any one player, including himself, from standing out, Brown said it doesn’t frustrate him.
“If they’re double-teaming Will, I’m single-covered,” he said. “If they’re sliding somebody over to my side, Amir gets the ball. It’s just one of those things where it’s like, pick your poison because we have such great receivers. If we’re having success, there’s no way I could be disappointed.”
Brown said he wants to make the most of his final season of eligibility with the Irish, but the senior isn’t putting pressure on himself to perform to a certain standard.
“I talked with my mom and my dad before the season, and they just said they wanted me to have fun this season, and that’s what I’ve been doing, and it’s been translating to success, so I’m just going to continue to enjoy the game,” he said. “You’re not promised anything in this game, so I’m trying to enjoy it every time I get out there.”