PJ's Brown Playing For National Title
By Dan Cleary
Pope John football coach Brian Carlson’s
office is located in the “old gym” on campus
tucked away in the corner off the basketball court.
When you enter its the cozy confines it looks
like your every day football coach’s office with
the usual clutter one would find with a desk
littered with letters, brochures and photos.
But what is not so typical of the office is the
extraordinary coaching talent that has come
through its doors the last few years including
the man that will be playing for a national title
Monday night against Oregon.
Urban Meyer, who will guide the fourth-seeded
Ohio State Buckeyes (13-1) into the first
College Football Playoff Championship game
versus No. 2 Oregon (13-1) at AT&T Stadium
in Arlington, Texas, walked through those office
doors over a year ago.
And why? Two words: Noah Brown.
Meyer’s visit and the outstanding history and
educational pedigree of Ohio State was enough
for Brown to sign on and just a mere 12 months-plus
from playing Morris Knolls in an NJAC-American Division clash, Brown will be playing in the national title game.
Mind blowing when you think about it.
From tiny Sussex County to playing in the mammoth football palace Jerry Jones built in front of millions of viewers on television, the freshman from Pope John has come a long way.
And the other incredible thing? It is the second year in a row someone with Sussex County ties is playing for a national title. Last year Sean Maguire of Sparta, who played at Seton Hall Prep, was Jameis Winston’s backup when Florida State won it all.
And with Winston declaring for the draft, Maguire will be in the running for the starter’s job this spring.
Maguire led the Seminoles to a thrilling 23-17 overtime win over Clemson this season when troubled-star Winston was suspended.
I’ve been around a long time and to my memory I can’t think of time when a player from the area played for a national title winner.
This is all pretty cool stuff and says a lot about of the football talent in the area, especially the crew that has come out of Pope John the last few years under Carlson.
Brown, Ryan Izzo at Florida State, Malachi Moore and Noa Merritt at Boston College and Anthony Smith at Penn State all played at one point under Carlson.
"We are very proud of Noah and what he has accomplished in his first season at OSU,” Carlson said. “He has worked very hard to be where he is today - in the playing rotation at OSU.
“Pope John had three players at the Pinstripe Bowl,“ he added. “Malachi Moore and Noa Merrit for BC and Anthony Smith for PSU couple this with having Ryan Izzo playing for FSU and Noah at OSU I think this speaks volumes of how Pope John prepares student/athletes for the next level both on and off the field.”
Brown was a no doubt blue-chipper the minute he walked on campus under the late, great Vic Paternostro at Pope John.
He played as a freshman and was a member of the 2010 team that lost a heartbreaker to Holy Cross in the state tournament in what turned out to be Paternostro’s final game.
But in Carlson’s first game at PJ Brown got hurt against Delbarton and missed most of his sophomore season and his future was in doubt.
Brown, however, came back as strong as ever and developed into one of the top prospects in the country eventually choosing Ohio State.
(Full disclosure, I’m a die-hard Notre Dame fan and was very disappointed when Brown did not go to South Bend!).
Brown, who has bulked up to 6-1 and 240 pounds, played in the team’s opener vs. Navy and has played in 10 games for the Buckeyes.
In the playoffs against Alabama, he had one carry for minus 4 yards in the Buckeyes’ 45-35 upset win. It was in the third quarter and Brown shifted from the slot to the backfield and took the handoff before two defenders knocked him out of bounds.
Carlson joked that didn’t that play sound familiar? Brown often picked up huge yards in that same formation for Pope John.
For the season he has the one carry, one catch for 9 yards and a kickoff return for 23 yards. He is listed behind Jalin Marshall on the depth chart at H-Back for Monday night’s game.
How cool would it be for the Buckeyes to win and Brown play a role? Love or hate Pope John, Brown is a great kid and easy to root for. I’m hoping he gets that ring and then wins a starting spot the next three years before getting a chance to play on Sundays.
But Brown is not the only area player with a huge potential. I spoke about Maguire already but he has two local teammates as well in Izzo and Chad Mavety of Sparta.
Izzo played in a couple of games as freshman getting a catch for seven yards against Wake Forest in FSU’s 43-3 win.
With outstanding tight end Nick O’Leary graduating don’t be surprised to see the Highland Lakes resident playing big time minutes as a true sophomore.
As for Mavety, he is a great story. He had a real solid career with Sparta as a lineman, then went to Nassau Community College (NY) and made himself a big-time D-I prospect.
Jimbo Fisher, who also visited Carlson’s office, took notice and the junior saw limited minutes this season but will also be in the hunt in 2015 for a starting job.
Three kids from Sussex County on a national contender. Again, just incredible.
Pope John also has two studs up at BC with Moore and Merritt. Moore is built like a professional at 6-7, 275, had 17 tackles and four sacks for the Eagles and is looking to a big senior year in 2015.
Merritt will be looking to get into the mix next season and with his motor and ability I see no way he won’t get time next season.
And another Lion, who didn’t play for Carlson but its playing big-time football is Maryland linebacker Cole Farrand who just finished his senior season as the Terps top tackler.
Hopefully Farrand will get some looks from NFL teams as a free agent or late-round pick.
And speaking of NFL prospects, Nick Boyle of High Point just wrapped up one of the best tight end careers in Delaware history. The 6-5, 270-punder has been named to several All-American teams this season and is a projected late-round pick for the NFL.
I’m sorry if I’m beating a dead horse here, but wow! When has the area had two kids with legitimate NFL aspirations in one year?
Again, like Brown, Boyle is a great kid who I have gotten to know over the years and his story of going from a guy who wanted to just play hoops to possible NFL pick is tremendous.
Boyle was recently selected to play in the Senior Bowl Jan. 24 in Alabama which draws top talent from all over the country. And one of the other tight ends picked was O’Leary from Florida State, so here's hoping Izzo can follow that trend.
So if you don’t have a dog in the fight Monday night, pull for Brown to get in the game and do well. It just makes the area look good and will bring attention to a place that over the years was not a hot spot for big-time recruiting.
And if Brown has the career that we all think he will, then Carlson may have to get a bigger office.
That’s it for now see you on the sidelines.