Former WV lineman plays close to home
After five years playing college football in Dillon, Montana, Nick Brown is finally learning who his friends are. At least when it comes to game tickets.
A former all-state lineman at West Valley, Brown is a fifth-year senior and two-time all-conference selection at the University of Montana Western. For the first time in his college career, the Bulldogs are playing close to his home, which means lots of friends and family will finally get a chance to see him play when he steps onto the red turf at Eastern Washington today.
“I know my dad went out and bought, like, 20 tickets for the game,” Brown said. “Then the other day our coach, BJ Robertson, told us that we would each be allocated two tickets. He said ‘Guys, if you can’t use those tickets, give ’em to Nick, because I’m sure he can.’
“So far I’ve got about a dozen tickets and will probably have more.”
NAIA Montana Western wasn’t on Brown’s football radar when he started looking for a spot to play college football.
“One of my high school coaches heard about them and told me I might want send them some tape of me playing,” Brown said. “There had been a couple guys from Deer Park who had played here and had some success.”
It’s been a good fit. After redshirting his first season, while the Bulldogs struggled through a 1-9 season, he moved into a starting spot on the offensive line the next year and has been a fixture there since.
“I’m playing under my third different head coach,” Brown said. “I’ve told each of them that they can take me out of the game, but other than that they’ll have to kill me to get me off the field.”
You don’t play NAIA football with dreams of playing pro ball. You play it, Brown said, because you have a deep, burning desire to play the game.
“It’s a lot like having a job – there’s always something football-related that we have to do,” Brown said. “But you’re not doing it because you want to play in the NFL, and I think that’s in the back of everyone’s mind at the Division I level.”
Football is in Brown’s future, he insists. After graduation, he plans to enroll at Washington State’s Spokane campus, where he plans to earn his certificate to teach, preferably as a health and physical education teacher at the high school level, where he can also coach football.
Brown says he loves the intimacy the game of football enjoys at a school like Montana Western.
“At a big school, the stadium is on campus,” he said. “You don’t see the players until they come running out of a tunnel onto the field. After the game the players run over to the student section and sing the fight song, but then they run off the field and there’s no interaction with the fans.
“That’s not the way that it is here. (Vigilante Stadium) isn’t on campus here. We take a bus from our locker room to the stadium. When the game’s over, our fans come down onto the field and we talk to them. Our family comes down and we talk to them. I like it.”
Brown’s family makes the trip for every home game and most games on the road. Having them come onto the field after a game makes for some special moments.
Playing a game close to home was always a dream, Brown said. But playing at Eastern Washington wasn’t it.
“I kept hoping that we would play Whitworth,” he laughed. “I figured that would be a great game for us. I never in my wildest dreams thought we’d get a chance to play Eastern. I am an Eastern fan and I’ve followed them. It’s a great program and it will be a great game for us. You always want to test yourself against the best teams you can find.”
Today’s trip to Cheney to play the top-ranked FCS team in the country isn’t a glamorous affair.
“We’ll get on the bus at 8 a.m. and get there by noon,” Brown said. “We’ll have a few hours to get loose and get ready for the game. I know my folks will be tailgating and I hope I’ll be able to get out there to at least say hi before the game.
“We’ll have a little time with our friends and family after the game, but then we get back on the bus and head back.”
Once the game starts, he said, he’ll have a pretty good-sized cheering section, thanks in part to the generosity of his teammates.
“I called my high school coach, Craig Whitney, and told him that I would be playing nearby and that he could come check me out. He said he already had his ticket ready and he was definitely going to be there.”