WVU football: K-State standout Brown good fit’
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- As far as the recruiting world was concerned in 2007, Bryce Brown was the best high school football player to come out of Kansas since Barry Sanders was spinning around Wichita more than 20 years earlier.
Brown had it all and the running back would be the top recruit in the class of 2009. So great was the hype that his trainer sold online updates about his client's recruiting for $9.99 a month or $59 for a year.
The only thing that kept people from stating Brown's in-state fame, as fact was one minor detail: It wasn't entirely clear he was the best player in his house.
His brother Arthur, older by a year, would graduate from Wichita East High in 2008 with more than 50 scholarship offers and as the state's first five-star player.
He ran the 40-yard dash with the speed of a running back and moved around the field with the grace of a wide receiver. He was a linebacker, though, a play-making machine who piled up 463 tackles and 29 sacks in three seasons.
His trainer once bragged that Oklahoma Coach Bob Stoops predicted Brown would win the Dick Butkus Award given to the nation's top college linebacker.
Safe bet, given Brown's talent, but Stoops apparently anticipated two such trophies.
Five seasons, two colleges and one scandal scare later, Brown is now a key for No. 4 Kansas State (6-0, 3-0 Big 12), which visits Mountaineers Field to face No. 17 West Virginia (5-1, 2-1) at 7 p.m. Saturday (WVAH telecast). He is back where things started and so close to the happy ending that seemed like it might forever elude him.
"The one thing that really stands out is just the journey itself," Brown said. "Being a high school kid transitioning from high school to another school, that can really change you. Everything about that experience, throughout the journey, was preparing me for where I am right now.
"The one thing I'm really thankful for is the opportunity to make the most of the opportunities. Regardless of what the situations seemed like at the time, it all leads to something if you make something out of it."
Brown signed with Miami and played as a true freshman in 2008, though mostly on special teams, while the Hurricanes made a strong move for his brother. Bryce committed to Miami, but didn't sign with the Hurricanes on national signing day in 2009. He extended his recruitment and named five more finalists, including Kansas State, before eventually picking Tennessee.
Arthur was again limited to mostly special teams as a sophomore and had only 13 tackles while Bryce played as a backup at Tennessee and had 460 yards and three touchdowns.
The Volunteers lost Coach Lane Kiffin to Southern Cal in the offseason and Bryce wanted to be released from his scholarship. Arthur wasn't content at Miami, either, and decided to transfer to Kansas State.
"Coming out of high school, being home didn't fit me," he said. "I wanted to get away, but I realized the value staying connected to your family."
Bryce wanted to go back home and play again with his brother, but Kiffin's replacement, Derek Dooley, blocked Bryce's transfer to Kansas State. Bryce still made the move and he and Arthur sat out in 2010, though Brown's family had to pay Bryce's way that year because Tennessee wouldn't approve the transfer.
"My parents did a great job raising us," Arthur said. "We had their support throughout our time growing up and playing football and going through everything we did. You never want to take that for granted, being so young and not realizing the sacrifices that went into play. But looking back at it now, it's something we're both thankful for."
The two were eligible in 2011, though not without incident. Both were implicated in the explosive Yahoo! Sports report in August 2011 that detailed a long line of recruiting immorality at Miami. Later that month, Kansas State announced the NCAA had cleared the Browns from any wrongdoing. They were eligible to play.
Bryce was actually a preseason all-Big 12 pick in 2011, but played three games and rushed for 16 yards before leaving the team. He entered the NFL Draft and was picked in the seventh round in April by the Philadelphia Eagles.
"Those were all decisions my brother made and I had no influence on him in any of his decisions," Arthur said. "Just listening to him now, if he had to go back to change anything, I don't think he would. He's not living with any regret."
Arthur hung around, finishing 2011 with a team-high 101 tackles, 9.5 tackles for a loss and one interception. The pick came against Heisman Trophy quarterback Robert Griffin III to set up a game-winning field goal against Baylor. He also had a game-ending tackle on a goal-line stand in a win at Miami.
After the season, Brown was named the Big 12's defensive newcomer of the year and first-team all-conference by the league's coaches. He was a preseason all-conference pick in July and has 47 tackles to lead a defense that ranks No. 31 in total defense and No. 19 in scoring defense.
"When it was legal to be able to spend time with him (when he left Miami), it was significant and I was very comfortable getting to know him and his family and spending time with the family," Kansas State Coach Bill Snyder said. "I enjoyed him immensely.
"He's the kind of guy we like to have in the program to reinforce the values we talk about. Different things fall into place and it was a good fit for all of us."
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.