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Oscar Smith's Brown named national player of the year
Oscar Smith's Brown named national player of the year


Not much about high school football surprises Andrew Brown any more.

Not double- and triple-team blocking schemes intended - usually without success - to keep him from invading opposing backfields.

Not numbers from distant area codes popping up on his phone at all hours - calls from college coaches asking, nearly six months after he committed to Virginia, if he might change his mind.

Brown is hip to it all. On Wednesday morning, however, the massive defensive tackle from Oscar Smith High got pancaked, floored by news that family and coaches managed to keep from him for nearly a week.

The 6-foot-4, 290-pound senior was named Gatorade's National Football Player of the Year, becoming the first player from South Hampton Roads, just the second defensive player and just the third from Virginia to receive the award in its 29-year history.

Brown joins a group of recipients that includes Peyton Manning (1994) and Emmitt Smith (1987) as well as former Peninsula standouts Terry Kirby (1989) and Ronald Curry (1998).

"I'm pretty sure the look on my face was priceless," Brown said after a ceremony in the school theater attended by his family, teammates, coaches, school officials, cheerleaders and the marching band.

Also on hand was former University of Virginia and NFL star Tiki Barber, who flew in to surprise Brown just before the ceremony.

Barber came in under the guise of talking to the team about its state championship game against Centreville on Saturday. He spoke about the game, and then turned his attention to Brown, congratulating him on winning Gatorade's state Player of the Year award recently.

"Then he pulled the trophy out of the box and said, 'Now, you are officially national Player of the Year,' " Oscar Smith coach Richard Morgan said.

Brown's family then walked into the room.

"I was like, 'Aw, OK, I see what's going on,' " Brown said.

About 20 minutes later, Barber publicly presented the award, which also recognizes character and academic achievement. Brown, a 3.64 student with a personality as outsized as his frame, spoke off the cuff for five minutes in remarks interrupted several times by laughter and applause.

"Wow," he began, before thanking God, his coaches, teammates, Gatorade and Barber, with whom he was already Twitter buddies.

Brown said he'd come a long way from his days in middle school as "that fat kid everybody joked" and taunted with the nickname "Big Greasy" because of his weight and propensity to sweat during football practice.

"Words cannot express how thankful I am, how blessed I'm feeling right now," he said. "This truly made my day, my year, my life!"

It had already been a whirlwind and bittersweet time for Brown. Monday was the sixth anniversary of the passing of his mother, Sonia Carter, who died from breast cancer. Brown wears pink-and-black game gloves inscribed with her name and said he feels like she's still with him.

Still, the anniversary had been difficult.

"Any time that day comes around, it's a lot of consoling, a lot of hugs, a lot of kisses - everything's going to be OK," said Brown's father, Andrew Sr. "But I couldn't tell him about this day that was coming."

Brown Sr. had learned about the award Friday. It was all he could do to keep the news from his son.

"I kept kicking him out of the house," he said. "I gave him $100 for the weekend, and was like, 'Have fun; stay away.' "

Brown was perplexed by his dad's move, but everything made sense when Barber surprised him with the trophy and his family appeared.

Brown, who has 18 sacks, 28 tackles for loss and has forced eight fumbles this season, now becomes a candidate to be Gatorade's male Athlete of the Year for all sports, announced in July before the ESPY awards in Hollywood. Brown will get to attend.

He is finishing high school early and heads to Virginia on Jan. 9. His last high school game will be at Virginia's Scott Stadium.

"It was like it was already written somewhere," he said of finishing one career at the venue where he'll begin his next one. "It's truly a blessing."

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