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Harty: Thanks to his dad, Orlando Brown a big fan of Ferentz

[ 4 ] May 3, 2012 |

By the time Orlando Brown decides where he wants to play college football, it’ll probably be easier to count the BCS schools that haven’t offered him a scholarship as opposed to the ones that have.

Brown is big in every sense of the word starting with his 6-foot-8, 360-pound body.

He’s also a big-time recruit with offers from a host of BCS schools despite only being a high school sophomore.

And he’s a big fan of Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz, largely because of how Ferentz treated Brown’s late father during his NFL career with the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens.

Orlando Brown the father joined the Cleveland Browns as an undrafted free agent offensive lineman out of South Carolina State in 1993. Ferentz was his position coach in the NFL and the two would go on to form a special and productive bond.

The older Brown was known mostly for pushing an NFL official to the ground after being struck in the eye with a ball-weighted penalty flag. But he also became one of the best and highest paid players at his position in the NFL.

Brown died unexpectedly in September at the age of 40 due to complications from diabetes. It was tragic and way too soon, but Brown still had enough time to tell his son about Kirk Ferentz the man and Kirk Ferentz the coach.

“My dad had a whole lot of ambition to become a professional football player and be the best player he could be and Kirk Ferentz helped him get there,” the younger Brown said Thursday afternoon in a telephone interview. “Kirk fell in love with him, I guess.”

That’s why you’d be foolish to rule Iowa out the competition to land the younger Brown just because the Hawkeyes aren’t an elite program. It’ll take a herculean effort to do it, considering Brown’s offer list already reads like a Who’s Who of the nation’s elite programs.

Alabama was the first school to offer Brown a scholarship when he was high school freshman. Iowa was the third school to offer him also when Brown was a high school freshman.

The offer came when Brown was attending perennial East Coast power DeMatha High School in Hyattsville, Md., where Iowa has recruited extensively in recent years. Brown has since transferred to Peachtree Ridge High School in Suwanne, Ga.

Some of the Iowa coaches were at DeMatha to recruit then-star senior offensive lineman Cyrus Kouandjio, who ultimately signed with Alabama. Brown said he noticed some people wearing Iowa attire and he made a point to introduce himself.

“I saw they had on the Iowa stuff and I said, `How you doing? I’m Orlando Brown, my dad used to play for the Ravens,’” Brown said. “They said `I’ve heard so much about your dad.’ And they sat down and talked with my coach and they gave me an offer.”

Brown has at least 20 scholarship offers at this point, a list that already, in addition to Iowa and Alabama, includes Southern California, Ohio State, Florida, Auburn, Wisconsin, Georgia and Clemson.

The odds are against Iowa to land Brown just based on the number of schools recruiting him. But so much of recruiting is about building relationships and trust and knowing the right people and being in the right place at the right time.

Iowa can’t compete with Alabama or Notre Dame when it comes to prestige, but neither of their head coaches helped turn Brown’s father into a force at the NFL level.

“He helped my dad get into shape and all kinds of stuff with technique and working with him every day and staying after practice with him and coming early to practice with him,” Brown said of Ferentz. “He helped him a whole lot.”

The older Brown also made a prediction to his son.

“My dad told me when I was younger, in about eighth grade he said, `I guarantee you Kirk Ferentz is going to come check you out,’” Brown said.

Brown is now determined to check out Iowa. He also said it would be wrong to assume that Iowa ultimately would take a back seat to the more high-profile programs.

“That’s not true at all because I like their coaching staff,” Brown said of Iowa. “They have very good coaches and they have Kirk Ferentz.

“I’m going to try and get out to Iowa this summer, hopefully.”

Brown is very well spoken for a kid his age. He also seems to embrace the attention, but doesn’t appear to take himself too seriously.

His father would be proud.

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Pat Harty: Columnist Pat Harty has been covering the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Press-Citizen since 1991. Originally from Des Moines, he currently writes columns and covers Hawkeye men's basketball for Hawk Central. View author profile.

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