MORGANTOWN, W.Va.–West Virginia’s Michael Brown’s journey isn’t your typical journey. In fact, it is one that is rather different than most.
It wasn’t until 2016 that the redshirt offensive lineman put on pads for the first time. Heart surgery and protective parents kept him from playing sports.
In fact the two years before Brown was serving a mission in the Philippines for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
During that time, Brown went around with his companion and taught the Gospel to the people of the Philippines. While serving on a mission, missionaries are away from their families with limited contact. They cannot use social media and phone access is limited, except on designated days. Mormon missionaries have a scheduled time to get up and go to bed. Also, they spend most of their time teaching the Book of Mormon and other doctrines.
That was no different for Elder Brown. He had to face other trials that some missionaries may not.
“There was rich areas, super poor areas, third world poverty,” Brown added. “Everything. No roads. Animals everywhere. Couldn’t speak English so I had to learn the language. It was definitely a shock because I grew up, as do most Americans, we have technology, nice houses, cement everywhere. But in the Philippines it was just dirt everywhere. People are riding motorcycles. If you are rich, you have a car. If you have a motorcycle, it wasn’t even a motorcycle, it was a scooter, you were a normal class person if you had a scooter. You were considered rich if you had a car.”
But the 6-foot-3, 355-pound guard believes it was all worth is and he is blessed for his dedication.
“Honestly, me serving my mission, it was a promised blessing,” he said. “They told me if I served and gave it my all, the lord would give me what I wanted and I wanted to play football.”
Upon returning home, Brown decided to chase his dream of playing football but he had some convincing to do first.
“My dad is a big tough guy and everything but getting him to let me play was the hard part,” he said. “My mom was like ‘the lord blessed you, go out and show them what you got’. My dad, he wants the best for me but he was more worried. But now that he sees where I’m at now, he’s more happy with it.”
That was when the Compton, California native began pursuit of his dreams and enrolled at Eastern Arizona Community College, where he helped lead the Monsters’ offense to a No.1 national ranking in rushing yards (3,532), third in rushing average (294.3), seventh in rushing touchdowns (31) and eighth in yards per rush (5.6) and seventh in points scored (423) in 2017.
From there, Brown headed east to Morgantown and now with a new head coach at the helm, he is ready to make a difference on the field for the Mountaineers.
Coming to the Mountain State was an easy decision for Brown. Despite having offers from Alabama, Georgia, Oregon and Texas, he knew this was where belonged.
“The reason I really liked Holgorsen was because he offered me and my brother,” he said. “That was a great deal. I had a lot of offers but if you are willing to take me and my brother then I’m definitely going come to West Virginia.”
Last season Brown redshirted and was confused about some things on the field but with Neal Brown and Matt Moore’s guidance,the junior is making significant strides.
“Coach Moore, he knew my understanding, that I was new and he took me step-by-step,” Brown said. “By the time I got on the field, I wasn’t lost. Because last year I was lost. I knew somewhat but I was confused. I needed to confirm things if I was right or wrong but since coach Moore came here, coach T.O. (Tyler Orlosky) they make sure I was doing everything right and by the time I got on the field, I felt really comfortable.”
One thing Brown had to do to help improve his game was cut weight. Since arriving on campus, he’s dropped about 20 pounds, which he credits WVU’s head of strength and conditioning Mike Joseph.
“His training is intense and pushes you to the core,” Brown said. “It’s a lot of dieting. When I got here I cut a lot of sweets like three, four months straight. I didn’t eat any takeout, no fast food. I was dying. Just extra conditioning when I do it. Just cutting a lot of carbs down.”
But the Paramount High School graduate still has more work to do before August.
“The goal weight before the season is 335,” he said. “I move pretty well now but I get tired and the 11th or 12th play I start the ‘huffing and puffing’.”
Cover Photo Credit: Shanna Rose, BGS