A bad break for Southern Miss WR DeAndre Brown

December, 22, 2008

NEW ORLEANS -- After spending almost two years in Mississippi, I'd heard a lot about DeAndre Brown. He'd been hailed as a bigger Calvin Johnson. The other night here in New Orleans was the first night I've ever met him.

He is the biggest receiver I've ever seen in person. At first, I thought he was a defensive end, until Southern Miss coach Frank Wilson said "This is DeAndre." He looks like he could be a power forward. Apparently, just a few minutes earlier, Jeremy Shockey, of all people, along with another Saints teammate, had spotted Brown standing near the entrance of the Hilton hotel and offered some advice about how to stay out of trouble.

To a lot of folks, Brown is as close physically to a "can't-miss" as there might be in the NFL's eyes among college players. He is a legit 6-foot-6, 230 pounds and can run a 4.5 forty. Brown has eaten up double teams for much of this season. No first-year receiver had put up stats close to what Brown had done this year, with 66 catches for over 1,100 yards and 12 TDs. By the end of Sunday night, he figured to set every meaningful receiving record in USM history.

Seventy-five minutes before kickoff of Sunday night's New Orleans Bowl, Brown was playfully running patterns as tandems of student managers tried to cover him. Just then I got a text from a buddy who is an NFL scout. "I am excited to see DeAndre play!" A few clicks later, the scout joked, "Can we draft him right now?"

Five minutes into the game, Brown caught a pass for a nine-yard gain to set the school single-season receptions mark. Then, on the next USM drive with the Golden Eagles at the Troy 30-yard line, Brown broke free on a route near the left sideline. Quarterback Austin Davis lofted a pass, but just as Brown planted his left foot, it seemed to catch in the turf. He tumbled to the ground while trying to extend for the ball. Brown immediately began to clutch at his lower left leg, holding it up in the air as part of the leg dangled at an impossible angle. It was one of the more gruesome injuries you are likely to see, and you had to wonder: Is his story headed for a heartbreaking ending?

A cart immediately was rushed out as teammates and USM medical staff hovered over him before the freshman was driven off with the leg in an air cast. The crowd began chanting "De-An-dre! De-An-dre!" Brown was rushed to Tulane Medical Center, where he was diagnosed with a fractured left tibia.

USM went on to rally without its star to win 30-27 in overtime. Afterward, Tony Hughes, the USM assistant who had recruited Brown, remarked how bittersweet the victory was. "They only thing you can do when you see something like that is start praying," Hughes said. "It's so sad. He's such a good kid."

However, as shocking as it might sound after seeing such a horrific break, Brown might not miss a game in 2009. According to The (Jackson, Miss.) Clarion-Ledger, Brown was to undergo surgery Sunday night as soon as he arrived back in Hattiesburg.

"It's a clean break," USM orthopedic physician Lance Line told The Clarion-Ledger's Tyler Cleveland late Sunday night. "We're going to operate tonight in Hattiesburg, and he will definitely miss all of spring practice, but if everything goes perfectly the rehab should take about six months."

Desmond Johnson, a fellow USM freshman, suffered a similar break midway through his senior year of high school in 2007 when he shattered his tibia. Johnson had a rod inserted in his leg along with three pins and said he was 100 percent healed and cleared by doctors in March and was able to run sprints for his track team. "When something like that happens, it's the worst pain you've ever felt, and then you immediately think, 'I'm through,'" Johnson said outside the USM locker room Sunday night. "I'm going to try and call DeAndre on the bus ride home."


• Dan Mullen might not be the only Florida assistant leaving UF after the season. Sources say Gators D-line coach Dan McCarney interviewed for the vacant coaching job at Army.

• Lane Kiffin is looking to add some big-name recruiters to his staff at Tennessee, and word is one of the guys he's considering is former Auburn running back coach Eddie Gran, a guy with strong connections in South Florida. By the way, the salaries for Kiffin's group of assistants might double the total doled out for Phil Fulmer's staff in 2008, which had a pool of under two million. Kiffin's defensive staff alone might top that.

• I had a chance to catch most of the HBO documentary "Breaking the Huddle" early Monday morning. It was outstanding. The segments on Darryl Hill (the player Lee Corso had recruited to Maryland) and SMU's Jerry LeVias were especially moving.

• Great show by Gartrell Johnson, the hard-running Colorado State back who ran all over Fresno State in what was a very entertaining game Saturday.



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