Panther-lair - The 'big opportunity' for Paris Brown
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The 'big opportunity' for Paris Brown

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Pitt made one more addition to the 2019 roster over the weekend, and the newest Panther is as intriguing as any of them.

Paris Brown is a senior at McEachern High School in Georgia. He’s been playing 7A ball, the highest level in the Peach State, and made his reputation as a dual-threat pass-catching running back for the Indians over the course of his career.

Those exploits naturally drew the attention of college coaches, and Brown pulled in more than a dozen offers throughout the recruiting process, including Power Five options like Iowa State, Kansas, Kentucky, South Carolina, Syracuse and Wake Forest.

But somewhere along the way, things took a turn.

“His whole thing was, he blew up early; his first offer was South Carolina, that was spring of his sophomore year,” Bryan Jacobson, the director of recruiting at McEachern, told Panther-Lair.com. “That was his first offer and then, coming out of the only camp he has ever been to, Oregon and Kentucky offered him.

“So he had the makings of one of those kids who should have 30 or 40 offers by the end of his junior year. He had lots of exposure, he was playing at 7A on a team that’s always in the playoffs. He had the whole makings to be that guy.

“But when he lost his dad…”

Brown’s father passed away when Brown was a freshman, and while it’s impossible to quantify the impact, the tragic loss seemed to turn a quiet young man even more inward.

“He’s not a very outspoken loud kid,” Jacobson said. “He’s very soft-spoken, very humble, shows his work on the field. He’s always been that way. When he got all that offers, it was great and good and all of that, but he didn’t stay in touch with any of those coaches. He wasn’t into all of that. That’s not his personality, I guess, is the best way to put it. So all the offers started falling off.

“He was supposed to go to Wake Forest, but he just kept waiting and waiting. Word on the street his junior year was, ‘He’s going to Wake,’ so all of his offers moved on. Everybody got a running back and then Wake said he was too slow to get involved and not reaching out enough, so they took somebody else.

“We had to start his recruitment all over again. It started from scratch. By then, most of the Power Fives had already figured out what they wanted. We reached out everywhere.”

Signing Day 2019 came and went as Brown sorted out his options, including some scholarship opportunities at schools outside the Power Five conferences. But he knew he could play and believed he could make an impact at the next level, so he looked at the schools giving him a chance to walk on, he was something of a free agent, giving him the chance to select his destination.

Over the weekend, Brown selected Pitt.

“It’s a big opportunity for me to go make an impact early on and it’s a great place,” Brown told Panther-Lair.com.

Pitt wasn’t new to Brown’s recruitment, and when he was still on the board after Signing Day, cornerbacks coach Archie Collins, who recruits Georgia for the Panthers, turned up the intensity on the conversations.

“I’ve known Coach Collins for awhile and we started talking major for like a month now,” Brown said. “He’s a really cool guy He keeps it real. I can talk to him about anything. He’s a real down-to-earth person.”

Brown decided to attend Pitt without having visited campus - he’s got plans to make the trip north in June - but he was confident in what he read and what Collins had told him about Pittsburgh, the campus and the football program.

“I’ve known the coaches for awhile now so I feel comfortable,” Brown said. “I did my research so I know what to expect.”

As for what Pitt can expect from Brown, there are plenty of positive indications. This past year he was McEachern’s leading rusher with 1,102 yards on 157 carries - 7 yards per carry - and the team’s leading receiver, pulling in 36 catches for 426 yards. He scored 18 touchdowns - 16 rushing and two receiving - and even threw a touchdown pass.

That was Brown’s third consecutive 1,000-yard season. At 5’10” and 200 pounds, he’s got the size to become a power back, but with roughly 500 career carries in high school, he also has plenty of tread on the tires heading into college.

He’s also got something else: motivation. There is motivation for the future - motivation to get to Pitt, earn playing time and ultimately a scholarship. And there’s also motivation from the past.

“When everything was happening, I just kept working out and working hard,” Brown said. “It didn’t change who I am, but I think I have a chip on my shoulder. I want to show coaches what they missed.”