I can remember the exact moment it hit me. With a little under five minutes left to play at Ball State, the largely unknown freshman running back Spencer Brown took a hand off out of the pistol diamond option formation, galloped off tackle to the right, and savagely mowed over their poor cornerback.
It got my attention. Heck, it got everyone’s attention. A star was born in Muncie, Ind. that day, not far from where a very familiar Blazer running back took refuge when the program was shut down in 2014. Funny how things work out.
We can now point to the Ball State game as the official Spencer Brown coming out party as he’s started every game since and has accumulated 629 yards, including three games over 150 yards.
If you’ve been paying attention on social media you’ve heard he’s fast approaching the freshman rushing record of 881 yards. It’s likely UAB has at least six games remaining, which means he should break that record easily and continue on to a 1,000 yard-plus season.
Keep the number 1,587 in your mind. That’s the amount of yards the current starting running back for the Chicago Bears ran for at UAB during his sophomore season in 2014. His name is Jordan Howard and he and Spencer Brown share not only a similar playing style, but similar paths to success.
It’s no surprise to those who follow the blog that I love recruiting and the story lines that the process yields. When I watch NBA or NFL games I always look up the athletic timeline of a player who I’m just hearing of for the first time, or someone who I may not be familiar with their pre-pro life. I love a underdog and at a school like UAB, and we get our fair share of overlooked athletes.
In recent history none have risen higher from the unexpected than Jordan Howard. Coming out of Gardendale High School, located in North Jefferson County just minutes north of Birmingham, Howard had one lone Division 1 offer. If any credit should ever be given to former coach Garrick McGee, it should be his foresight of Howard’s potential. He truly was a diamond in the rough when McGee’s tenure largely produced coal results on the field.
Our budding star Spencer Brown followed a similar path to Howard out of high school. Brown played for Mortimer Jordan High School, also located in North Jefferson county and a long time rival of Gardendale’s, where he accumulated 1,972 yards and 33 touchdowns as a senior. Like Howard, Brown’s recruitment wasn’t a courting spectacle, and that’s largely because he committed to UAB after his junior year while attending one of our camps.
Despite Brown’s early commitment, for the fairy tale sake it seems sort of like fate had a hand in giving us two running backs who came out of the same area who both have either done or are helping do their part in the resurgence of our left for dead program. The two even have similar measurables with both standing 6-foot and weighing around 225-235. You have to admit, seeing Brown run it’s very reminiscent of Howard, especially in his early years.
I know what you’re thinking, pump the breaks Dave, let’s not put the cart before the running back and paint this kid’s future six games into his career.
Well I’ll say this in rebuttal — I’ve seen a lot of amazing things happen within this program over the last few years and this has the makings of being another great story in a book that’s just beginning.
In the meantime, let’s sit back and relax and enjoy watching Spencer Brown grow up before our eyes.