Long Beach linebacker Richie Brown grew up in Mississippi and has memories of seeing the Clarion Ledger Dandy Dozen list as young football player.
The 6-foot-2, 223-pound linebacker said it was an honor to be named to the prestigious list entering his senior year, something he didn't think possible as a youngster.
"It's a little bit surreal," Brown said. "It's a pretty amazing thing. I've seen it before, but I never really thought of myself being in there until my sophomore year. I kind of said, 'Oh, yeah I have a chance.' But it's exciting."
Since that sophomore year started, Brown has racked up an almost unreal 313 tackles in two seasons and he thinks he can reach 500 by the end of his senior season if he gets a couple playoff games.
Naturally, a player like Brown, who has been clocked at a 4.5 in the 40-yard dash, is rising through the ranks of the top linebackers for the 2012 class, already ranked by Rivals.com as the No. 28 inside linebacker in the country as a three-star prospect.
Brown has also put in hard work in the classroom, earning him offers from schools with prestigious academic programs like Stanford and Purdue. He also has offers from all the Mississippi schools, as well as nearby LSU.
Brown said he wants to take his time making a decision on where to go, saying he wants to be absolutely sure he's making the most logical decision.
"I've pretty much been sticking to after the season sometime," Brown said of his timeline for a decision. "I'm taking it slow making sure. I'm not just doing it to enjoy the experience, even though I am enjoying it. I'm just trying to be smart and coast things out and not make an emotional or irrational decision. When I commit somewhere, I want to know that's where I want to be and stick to that commitment."
Being around the best players from Mississippi at the Dandy Dozen photo shoot, Brown could certainly see the benefits of staying in the state, though he said he has no problems with moving far off.
"It doesn't really matter," Brown said. "If I think Stanford or some place far away is the place for me to be, then absolutely, at the end of this evaluation, that's where I'll end up going."
As for the top in-state schools, Ole Miss and Mississippi State, Brown said, "Oh, they're great schools, great atmospheres, great home environment. They're like family there, everybody knows you. It's great schools, high tempo. They're real pumped up, excited and very intense."
Brown said he hears from coaches on both staffs on a regular basis.
"Coach [Geoff] Collins, he's the linebacker coach at MSU. Coach Dan Mullen, he keeps in good contact with me," Brown said. "[MSU offensive coordinator Les] Koenning keeps in contact with me. Coach [Terry] Price is our recruiting coach from Ole Miss. Coach Tyrone Nix, who's the linebacker coach at Ole Miss, and then Houston Nutt keeps in good contact with me, too."
Brown also has a high profile teammate in defensive tackle Nick James, also a Dandy Dozen member and one of the top players in the state. While many of Mississippi's elite prospects have discussed joining together at one of the Magnolia State schools, Brown said he and James have no plans to purposely attend the same school. However, he said, that doesn't meant it won't happen.
"Possibly, it's a thought," he said. "It's out there. We have offers from a lot of the same schools, besides Purdue and Stanford because of the grade issue. It's very possible we could end up going to the same place."
Said Brown, "Not on purpose, but I'm pretty sure if one of us goes somewhere it'll somewhat, minorly influence where the other one goes."
So what is Brown looking for in his college of choice?
"Really just the atmosphere and the feel," Brown said. "What I feel when I step on campus and what I feel about them, kind of their attitude toward football. What their thoughts are about me, you know, how interested they are in me. I want to go to a school where they believe in me, where they believe in what I can do. I don't want to go somewhere where they're like, 'Oh, he's good, but we don't really believe in him that much.'"