Colby Brown signs with E. Illinois


When Colby Brown went to his first NFA camp as an eighth grader, he didn’t exactly stand out. As a matter of fact, he really wasn’t even a quarterback at the time.

“I was an offensive lineman, a guard,” Brown said. “I went to my first NFA camp and they changed my throwing motion and that gave me a little confidence and I started believing I could do it. I started believing I could play quarterback.”

During his freshman season at Olympia High School in Orlando, Fla., Brown made his first appearance at QB in a playoff game, and it was a memorable debut. “They put me in the fourth quarter and I threw for about 200 yards,” he said.

Brown led Olympia to another playoff appearance during his sophomore season before moving to Plant High School in Tampa. As a junior, Brown played behind highly skilled senior Aaron Banks but still managed to compile 470 passing yards and 4 touchdowns.

This past season, the senior led Plant H.S. to an 11-2-1 record and another postseason berth while passing for 2,905 yards and 31 touchdowns. Brown also rushed for 151 yards and 3 TDs.

In addition to NFA, Brown said playing on the offensive line helped make him a better football player. “Moving from offensive line to quarterback, I’m glad it worked out that way,” he said. “I got a better understanding of how hard an O-lineman’s job is, and even though I was an O-lineman, I was one of the smallest kids on the team and I thought I might have developed a little toughness. I probably should go back to O-line a little bit and toughen up again.”

This past week, Brown signed a letter of intent to play QB for Eastern Illinois, which advanced to the quarterfinals of the FCS playoffs last season. The Panthers were led by quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who is positioned to be selected in the top half of the upcoming NFL Draft.

In good company at EIU

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo also played at attended EIU, as did New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton. “They’re a good team and they’ve got really good coaches,” Brown said. “They’re new and they’re going to do well. They told me I had a chance to compete early and I really liked hearing that.”

Brown was relieved to hook up with Eastern Illinois, and he is happy the recruiting process is over. Even with the impressive numbers he put up for one of the top high school programs in football-rich Florida this past season, Brown was not overwhelmed by college offers.

“The process was brutal,” Brown said bluntly. “I had 15 schools or so that told me, ‘Hey, if this kid doesn’t commit the spot’s yours.’ A kid always committed. It happened at Utah State, Toledo, Rutgers, Vanderbilt, Minnesota, Georgia Southern and a bunch of other schools. It was rough. It was pretty nerve racking. The thing I think kids need to understand about the recruiting process is, it’s not ever a measure of how talented or how good you are at football. It’s a measure of how good you are and the situation you’re put in. That’s what (Head) Coach (Robert) Weiner always told me at Plant. It’s a pretty rough process, especially for quarterbacks.”

Brown’s lack of size was also an issue. At 6-foot-1, 185 pounds, many big-time programs obviously thought he was too small.

“Absolutely, it was a problems for a lot of schools,” Brown said. “I kind of like my size. I feel like I can use it to my advantage a little bit. But there are just some schools out there that won’t offer a smaller guy. It doesn’t matter how good he is. Anything that cuts your options in half like that, it’s going to make it tough. I almost feel like little guys are better, to be honest. Big guys can see a little bit better, but unless you’re a big guy that’s really athletic, and still throw with accuracy, it’s like what’s the point if you’re going to be awkward and big?”

Brown said he was relieved to find a college home at Eastern Illinois, and he’s ready to help keep the program on strong footing. “I think I’ll have a huge chip on my shoulder, being a small guy, being a guy that was under-recruited,” he said. “I love having a little chip.”

And even though he’ll be starting all over again as a freshman, Brown said the lessons he learned from NFA should help him overcome any future obstacles. “NFA was a huge push for me,” Brown said. “They taught me a lot about playing quarterback and they taught me a good part of how to be a man, how to treat people. Treat everyone like they’re important and that really helped shaped my leadership skills.”


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Scot Gregor is an award-winning sportswriter for the Chicago Daily Herald. In addition to writing about Big 10 and Notre Dame football, Gregor has also covered the White Sox, Bears, Blackhawks, Bulls and college basketball. He grew up in Pittsburgh and watched the Steelers rise to prominence in the 1970s. Gregor has a B.S. degree in Journalism from Ohio University