Gators RB Mack Brown’s career changed Saturday

By Adam Silverstein
September 1, 2013

You can’t blame him.

Redshirt junior Mack Brown has stood inside the tunnel ready to run onto Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium dozens of times, but he never thought he would do so as the starting running back for the Florida Gators.

That changed on Saturday.

“It felt good,” he said. “Still ain’t feeling real right now.”

But Brown – who was all smiles after his 25-carry, 112-yard, two-touchdown performance in the season opener – expressed a different emotion when he was standing in that tunnel, his helmet shielding his face from his teammates and coaches.

“I had tears in my eyes, man.”

Brown played in just two games as a freshman, picking up a redshirt to preserve a year of eligibility. He carried the ball 12 times in his second year despite dressing for every game. Last season, as the only veteran back-up running back on the roster behind starter Mike Gillislee, he was beaten out for the second-string job then-freshman Matt Jones. Brown carried the ball 25 times for 102 yards.

He never had more than 10 carries in a game, never scored a touchdown and never had a rush longer than 13 yards.

That changed on Saturday.

“I felt like I was useless the last couple of years, you know? [I] got an opportunity, took the best and ran with it,” he said.


Brown led the Gators down the field and found the end zone on his team’s first offensive series of the game, carrying the ball six times and using a career-long 23-yard rush to get Florida into the red zone.

He admitted to having butterflies in his stomach when he crossed the goal line but did not drop to his knees and pray, point to the sky, celebrate with his teammates or hold onto the ball for safe keeping. Instead, he nonchalantly tossed the ball to the official and went on with his business, like he it was his 100th touchdown instead of his first.

“Just being on the field on the first team is a blessing,” he said. “Me scoring is nothing really big to me. Just being on the field and getting my opportunity is the big thing.”

There may have been another reason Brown chose not to celebrate the touchdown with some extravagance.

“Before the game, I told coach I’m gonna take my helmet off. He said, if I do that, I’m not going to see the field gain,” Brown recalled.

For a player who has been dying to step off the sidelines for three seasons, Brown was not going to take that chance, despite his idea being an obvious joke.

“Mack is a guy that’s talented. You just got to get an opportunity to play. He’s played behind some good runners here,” head coach Will Muschamp said in his post-game press conference. “Nothing shocks me what he did today. I was expecting him to run hard and run well. He did.”

Brown did not just run well, he blocked well, too.

Asked afterward to pick a highlight from his first career start – a game in which he ran for 97 first-half yards, finished with 112 yards and scored twice – Brown, unprompted, chose his most unselfish play of the day.

Facing 3rd-and-Goal at Toledo’s four-yard line, offensive coordinator Brent Pease called a play action pass for redshirt junior fullback Gideon Ajagbe. Brown, noticing a defensive end had picked up on the fake and was trying to get to junior quarterback Jeff Driskel to ruin the play, stepped up and levied a strong block, freeing Driskel to throw the ball to Ajagbe in stride for an easy score.

“The cut-block on the score pass, when Gideon scored, when I cut the D-end,” said Brown when he responded to the question. “I seen the dude trying to get my man Driskel and I said, ‘I’m gonna cut him.’ I cut him as hard as I can.”

Hard-working, unselfish, passionate and humble with a team-first attitude, Brown certainly seems like Muschamp’s kind of player. So it should be no surprise that the coach said Brown “earned” extra carries going forward after his performance Saturday.

“Absolutely. There’s no question. The more a guy plays, and the more he plays well, it gives you great confidence in putting him in the game and knowing he’s going to play well,” Muschamp said.

Brown considered Saturday a “blessing” and for good reason. No longer will he be the overlooked back-up running back without a role. No longer will he feel “stressed after the game, feel like you failed your team.”

He may lose the starting job come next Saturday against Miami, but he will not be without additional opportunities to see the field and impact Florida football.

“Now making plays for the team, it just feels good, man,” he said.

That changed on Saturday.

Photo Credit: John Raoux/Associated Press

10 Comments

  1. Craven says:

    To the 4 and 5 stars that come to Florida with an entitlement attitude. Take a good look at a guy with perseverance and tenacity. That’s Mack Brown, and that’s a football player.

  2. Courtney says:

    Not impressed, he’s slow, has no burst or Nor moves. The holes that our o line opened i could have run through.

    • John Yao says:

      …and scored from 4 yards out carrying three defenders!! Ha Ha troll! Must be a hater~let me guess a “semen hole” fan?? GREAT Job Mack Brown! Proud of your perseverance and patience! Mack you showed us a lot yesterday! LOTS of GATOR HEART!

    • Michael Jones says:

      The article was about Mack Brown. Gator tailback? Played against Toledo yesterday in the Swamp? Should have seen that game, man. The kid looked good!

  3. Gatorgrad79 says:

    Nice story about a great kid, Adam, thx.

  4. Zulueta says:

    Super happy for Brown. Excellent job!

  5. Zulueta says:

    If Courtney could run through those holes, we would be reading about him running for 100+ yards yesterday.

  6. grant says:

    courtney, go back to the fsu blogs that you enjoy more. brown shined in jones’ absence and it was nice to see. looking forward to seeing mack get more touches this year.

  7. Michael Jones says:

    He was fast, smart, shifty, and tough. I was very impressed. I knew all along that the kid had it in him. Great job, Mack! Stay ready. We’ll need plenty more of what you bring to the table!!

  8. W says:

    He and Gilly are cut from the same cloth- guys who stayed quiet and kept working hard while out of the spotlight, and really shined once they stepped into it.

    Not saying he’s going to Wally Pipp Matt Jones because he won’t, but it’ll be great to see them splitting carries along with the help of Taylor, Herndon, and Showers out of the backfield. Our run game is going to be a lot of fun to watch this year.

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