Pope John's Noah Brown already garnering D-I attention
Aug 04, 2012
By PETER STEIN
SPARTA — Already they could see it — the raw athletic ability, the Division I potential.
Though the kid they were evaluating had barely finished his sophomore year of high school, and he hadn't yet seen much high school football action, the D-I scouts saw a player who could help them in a few years.
So although Pope John's Noah Brown had served mostly mop-up duty as a freshman and had lost the bulk of his sophomore season to injury, those scouts from Boston College, Rutgers and Temple saw Brown's innate athletic ability and were confident enough to extend verbal offers for football scholarships. They each want Brown to be part of their program in 2014.
"Right now, they're recruiting him as an athlete," Pope John's head football coach Brian Carlson said. "He can play wide receiver, he can play strong safety, he can play running back. There are a lot of spots for him."
"My goal is to play on the offensive side of the ball," Brown said, "but I'll play wherever the school I go to needs me."
BC, Rutgers and Temple are likely just the first three on what could be a long list of Division I suitors for Brown. "People are definitely interested in him," Carlson said. "Virginia Tech is interested in him, Miami (Fla.), Nebraska. So there are a lot of people that are really starting to find out what kind of athlete he is."
Brown's Division I path was cleared when he attended what Carlson described as "a combine type of thing" at Temple and Rutgers. In between, Brown traveled with the Pope John football team to a Boston College camp that was held during a recent Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday-Friday stretch. In the midst of dazzling the Boston College scouts, Brown received some great news on the Wednesday of that week — representatives from Temple phoned and offered him a verbal scholarship.
The next day, BC reps met with Brown and made their own verbal offer. And the following Tuesday, Rutgers offered the same.
"It was definitely surprising," said Brown, who lives in Mount Olive. "But I put in a lot of work during the offseason, and I stay in shape. So hard work paid off."
It was good for Brown to get those chances because he had played so sparingly over the previous two years. Brown's freshman season of 2010 was the 43rd and last season for iconic Pope John head coach Vic Paternostro, and the roster was loaded with polished seniors, so the younger players had to wait their turn.
As the Lions were rolling to an undefeated regular season that fall, they often had victories salted away by the third quarter. That sent starting senior running back Kyle McGrath to the bench, allowing Brown to get some carries. With those opportunities, Brown proved he could be an elite rusher and an overall offensive dynamo, and Paternostro even used him as a defensive back in the Lions' season-ending loss to Holy Spirit.
After Carlson replaced Paternostro that offseason, there was much anticipation about what Brown could achieve as a sophomore. But Brown's 2011 season was derailed by a lower-body injury he suffered in the first quarter of Pope John's season opener against Delbarton. Brown returned for the Lions' regular-season finale against East Orange Campus, and he put on a show that day with an over-the-shoulder catch for a 33-yard touchdown, a 22-yard reception to set up another score, a leaping 27-yard reception and a 63-yard kickoff return. Brown also played in Pope John's state quarterfinal loss to Red Bank Catholic the following weekend.
Despite that limited field time, Brown managed to impress the right people with the right attributes during his recent Division I visits.
"A lot had to do — especially in this day and age — with character," Carlson said. "There are a lot of great athletes, but character is really important."
That athletic prowess could not be ignored either.
"He knows how to position his body on the ball," Carlson said. "He has great hands, soft hands, unbelievable hands. Unbelievable body control. Up in the air, it's crazy how good he is there. Strong kid; he's 6-1, 200 pounds. ... The things I'm most impressed with are his size, his soft hands, his hand-eye coordination and his body control. When he's up in the air, he can make his body contort in six different ways."
It's scary to think that Brown is only heading into his junior season of high school ball. "If he has the breakout year he should this year, and does really well, he could be a national recruit," Carlson said, "(with interest) from the West Coast, SEC (Southeastern Conference), all that."
"Every college is on my radar," Brown said. "You can't think above anything or below anything. You've got to keep all your options open."