Former Millionaire Gary Brown the ideal high school running back
When football coaches look for a good running back, they look for the obvious attributes: speed, power, vision, toughness. These would probably be the big four with different variations sprinkled in.
“No. 1, one of the greatest attributes is speed. If a kid has speed, he’s instantly going to have a leg up,” said South Williamsport coach Chris Eiswerth.
“Tougnhness first of all, you don’t want a guy who is putting the ball on the ground,” said Williamsport coach Chuck Crews. “Not necessarily foot speed but foot quickness and, lastly, vision.”
“You got to see if he has good vision, a good running back has to understand what the defense is doing,” said Warrior Run coach D.J. Flick.
Most running backs have one or two of these attributes. Not many have three and only a few have four.
When you get a runner with all four, and then some, you get a once in a generation talent. The Dominick Bragalones and the Darrell Blackmans don’t come around very often and the Gary Browns are even rarer.
Brown’s No. 28 Williamsport jersey will be retired at Williamsport tonight as the Millionaires take on Wyoming Valley.
Brown’s jersey is not only being retired for his work at Williamsport, though the 4,110 rushing yards and 74 touchdowns against a killer schedule are impressive, but his career at Penn State and in the NFL are just as impressive. He played at running back for three years for the Nittany Lions, signing with them during his senior season at Williamsport when they beat Miami for the national title. He totaling 1,321 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns there, and in his junior year he played defensive back. He was drafted in the eighth round by the Houston Oilers where he played for five years, rushing for 1,002 yards in his third season. He then played for the San Diego Chargers and New York Giants, running for a career-high 1,063 yards in his second to last season in 1998.
But Eiswerth, who played for South Williamsport while Brown was at Williamsport, remembers Brown when he was dominating in Pop Warner.
“Gary Brown was a Pop Warner legend. From the time he played Pop Warner football, all the way up,” said Eiswerth. “He was a guy that always stood out from the first time he put a football helmet on. I remember as a youngster and people talking about Gary Brown. I think he played with the Newberry Steelers, Greg Walker was in the same backfield, he played at Syracuse.”
Eiswerth has coached a number of good running backs including Bragalone, Loyalsock’s Kyle Van Fleet and Kerron Dicks, Warrior Run’s Austin Oberdorf and his current running back, Gideon Green. Combined, the five have rushed for over 18,000 yards but still, there is no other running back like Brown.
“They’re all just very fond memories. That time they won the Eastern Conference Championship. It was a great thrill for us. They played on Saturdays, so we would go over and they played Mt. Carmel and he had five or six touchdowns that day. He was a man amongst boys,” said Eiswerth. “You would hear, ‘Oh, Miami is up in the press box.’ Like it was no big deal. Nebraska, they came to a practice his senior year and I believe it was the coach and he pulled right up on the field in a sports car. He’s (Frank Solich) the head coach of Ohio U. now. There’s just a number of tremendous stories.”
Gary’s brother, Kevin is the offensive coordinator at Williamsport and he brought Gary to a practice in the summer to talk to the players and they, especially the running backs, responded to it very well.
“It seem to me that a lot of them really absorbed it and they were asking questions and he gave them good and honest feedback. Some of the kids he’s gotten to know them personally Treyson (Potts) and Gary might text each other and Isaiah (Hankins) and Gary might text each other. I would just hear my brother say, ‘I talked to Trey last night or Isaiah.’…He’s gotten to know some of them on a personal level,” said Kevin Brown, who himself the ninth leading rusher at Lock Haven.
Potts reminds Kevin a bit of his older brother when he was at Williamsport and Gary has given the sophomore running back some advice over the years.
“I would think he probably told them some things that I tell Treyson myself,” said Kevin. “You have a shot to go somewhere big with this game so respect it as much as you can. Talent is only going to get you so far. You gotta’ be able to grind because at the next level, there’s 1,000 Treyson Potts so what separates you is how hard you work and how you prepare.”
Kevin is five years younger than Gary. So when Gary was at Williamsport, Kevin was always too young to really understand the game, and he didn’t see much of his brother at Penn State because Williamsport and the Nittany Lions each played on Saturdays, except for a rare Friday night game for Williamsport. Kevin really began to watch Gary later in his high school career and when he was at Lock Haven.
“I could probably say, his games at least his senior year and more college and pro stuff I watched because he was obviously a tremendous athlete. He had a lot of flaws in high school but most high school kids do,” said Kevin. “(I watched his) college and professional (film) definitely and the reason professionally was because we (Lock Haven) ran the same offense the Oilers ran and I was like, ‘Wow, my brother is playing the same position in the same offense.'”
When growing up, Kevin and Gary got along, well, like brothers.
“He beat me up and I hated him,” Kevin said with a laugh.
But tonight when Gary’s number is retired, it’s a special moment for the whole Brown Family and Kevin is just glad he gets to be there for his older brother.
“I’m biased so some of things I say may be ballooned, but I think it a lot of ways, I think he helped put Williamsport on the map and in the 80s. Central PA wasn’t a hotbed for football talent and here was this kid from Williamsport that really went somewhere,” Kevin said. “Not to disrespect Penn State but he didn’t go to the Nittany Lions in 2016, he went to the national champion Nittany Lions. He had to be something big and probably bigger than I even know and I’m just tremendously proud. Just to see him be recognized for three years of excellent football at Williamsport Area High School, it’s going be really big and special. I’m glad I’m going be there to see it.”