October 30, 2009

Curtis Brown is driven to succeed


Texas cornerback Curtis Brown has been everywhere lately for the Longhorns.

He forced a fumble on a kickoff return against Oklahoma and broke up a potential touchdown pass in the end zone against the Sooners.

Against Missouri last week, Brown blocked a punt recovered in the end zone for a touchdown by Malcolm Williams.

BREAKOUT MOMENT

Brown also leads the team with 10 passes broken up. Curtis Brown said this week he's still riding a boost of confidence that started last season, when he helped hold Oklahoma State receiver Dez Bryant well below his season averages in a 28-24 Texas victory over the Cowboys.

Brown helped break up the final pass of the game, a desperate heave by Zac Robinson to Bryant as time expired.

"I got confidence from making plays in that game, and I kind of liked the praise I got after that game, so it just made me work even harder," said Brown, who got into the Oklahoma State game last year when Chykie Brown injured his ankle.

LEARNING CURVE

Curtis Brown was a top national recruit out of Gilmer two years ago. (Brown was recruited by Ken Rucker.) But he said it's taken this long to get used to playing cornerback after playing nothing but receiver in high school.

He was also slowed this year by a concussion suffered in a collision with LB Emmanuel Acho that caused him to miss half of two-a-day practices. ("We were both in coverage and never saw each other.")

"It just takes time. I was highly recruited but you don't know your true talent until you get to the college level," Brown said. "And it took two years for me to adjust to the cornerback position. I'm doing pretty good I believe and I'm trying to evolve even more.

"Coach Akina thought athletic-wise, I would be a good corner. Most schools recruited me as a receiver. One of the biggest reasons I wanted to come here was because Coach Akina is so good at putting guys into the league, and I just wanted to follow in behind A. Ross (Aaron Ross) and them."

HARD WORK PAYS OFF

Akina said Curtis Brown's hard work is paying off.

"Curtis has progressed and is playing with so much confidence," Akina said. "He lined up against Dez Bryant last year, and he did well and really gained some confidence. He's progressed from there. But we're not close to what the final product will be.

"It's nice to watch him develop like that. He's a phenomenal athlete. As good an athlete as I've ever coached. But that doesn't always mean he'll be a great football player. But now it's starting to kick in. He was a receiver in high school. He's starting to understand the little mental parts of the game, and I'm happy for him because it's starting to go 'boom' for him and take off."

OVERCOMING ADVERSITY

Curtis Brown has overcome a lot in his personal life. His grandmother, Oneta Taylor, took custody of Curtis when he was six weeks old. Brown declines questions about what happened to his parents.

On October 1st, during UT's off-week, this season, Brown became a father to a daughter, Alaya.

"She knew when to come," Brown said, adding that Alaya lives with her mother in Houston.

Brown said he is more motivated than ever to succeed because he's a dad.

"I had a pretty rough upbringing," Brown said. "I stayed with my Grandma, who raised me from the time I was 6 weeks old. And now I have a daughter so that's given me even more drive to play well. I'd rather not talk about (my parents). Just family problems. I was just trying to get out of the situation I was in."

'THE CAT'

Brown's teammates call him "Cat," because he has such great balance.

"Curtis has unbelievable quickness," Akina said. "He can get to top end speed and has another gear to close on things. He's very loose-hipped, so he can change direction easily. The guys call him 'The Cat' because he's so hard to knock off his feet. He's got good size for a corner. You have to work on the physical side. But you can develop those things.

"The offense really wanted him. And I think that's what made him such a top recruit because he had a lot of position flexibility. But I do think he made the right choice for his future down the road, like Nathan (Vasher) did. Curtis would have been a good receiver, too. But guys like that are just hard to find."

Brown laughs when asked about being called "Cat" because he said while growing up his grandmother he was around dozens of cats.

"I grew up with a lot of cats. No dogs," Brown said. "House cats, we had six. And outside cats, anywhere from 17 to 20. I had little names for them. Tweetie, Black. I know that's funny coming from a football player."

FAMILY FIRST

When you ask Curtis about his hopes and dreams, they all have to do with football.

"You gotta provide for your family, and obviously football can do that for you," he said. "Got to get it done for your family and your future. That's the main thing in my life. You've got to provide for your family eventually."

Brown said the defense knows it's playing well, but also knows it can get a lot better.

"We all work real hard, and the big head doesn't get you anywhere," Brown said. "So we're just working hard to get better. We've got a lot of pride in the defense. Compared to last year, our secondary just grew. We're not so young anymore. Having freshmen starting last year, now we have a good base of experience, and we have confidence in ourselves.

"We can grow enormous. We can shut people down, but we're going to have better competition later in the year, and we just need to stand up to that."

BRIGHT FUTURE

Akina sees a bright future for Brown.

"Curtis is a serious kid, but there's a lighter side to him," Akina said. "He's very conscientious. This game is very important to him, and he's worked very hard to get to this point. And, like I said, he's not close to the finished product. It's going to be really exciting to see all these snaps continue to add up."

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