Faith -- and fasting -- help Brown brothers choose a college
Last December, Arthur Brown Jr. fasted for 14 days before choosing Miami
His younger brother, Bryce, will do the same before picking a school
Bryce was named co-MVP of the U.S. Army All-American game last Saturday
NEW YORK -- It reads like a parable.
Last December, Arthur Brown Jr., a 6-foot-1, 210-pound outside linebacker from East High (Wichita, Kan.), was in the final days of his recruitment. Down to five schools (USC, LSU, UNC, Miami and Florida), his parents, Lelonnie and Arthur Sr., welcomed each coaching staff to their home to make a final pitch.
Tempted by promises of playing time and images of glittering facilities, Brown decided to search within himself. Unknown to the courting coaches, Brown was in the midst of a 14-day fast with his father Arthur Sr., younger brother Bryce and trainer Brian Butler. As non-denominational Christians, the quartet lived solely on fluids until they came to a unanimous choice. Entrusting his faith to one more person, the devout linebacker slipped a typewritten letter beneath his mother's pillow as the first week ended. It read:
Please don't negotiate or consult with anybody about this decision. Not daddy, not Bryce, B, friends, family. Nobody.
For three years, God has led me to believe that once this time came, he would speak through you, a woman's spirit. I have few ties to men in my life, but you are the only woman in my life to which I am spiritually and physically bound to.
The time is now here. I left it in His hands. You are led with capability and sufficiently by the spirit to put together this earthly piece of work. Deny yourself of the flesh and allow God to work through you throughout this moment in time.
Remember, his interests are to be my interests. Not yours, not mine should govern, control or dominate that.
Mama, take a look at everything. But in the end, just pray.
A blur on the field, Brown Jr., who runs a 4.3 40, did not slow his workouts. Mirroring his tailback brother, who is just 11 months younger, he maintained regular weightlifting sessions. Butler, who began work with the brothers when the elder was a freshman at East, maintained their nutrition with V8 Juice, water, muscle milk and tomato soup. "They weren't famished," said Butler, who makes bible study and prayer prerequisites for the 30 trainees his non-profit organization, Potential Players, develops.
By Dec. 17, Butler and Brown Sr. spoke on the phone to see where each other stood. Then they reached out to both brothers, the last being Bryce. Contacted at his girlfriend's house, the younger Brown, who is more outspoken, asked, "Who did you all choose?"
"You have to tell us on your own first," his father said.
"Well, Miami has been the school on my mind the whole time," Bryce said.
They were all in agreement.
"My girlfriend made me a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and gave me grapes immediately," said Bryce, who had lost eight pounds.
Less than two months after Arthur Jr.'s decision, Bryce gave Miami a verbal commitment, but he has since reconsidered his desire to follow his brother's path. During the summer, he took an unofficial visit to Purdue's campus with a group of top players from Kansas. Over Thanksgiving, he attended the intrastate rivalry game between Clemson and South Carolina in Death Valley. In coming weeks, he plans to take official visits to Coral Gables and Purdue again. "Even Arthur took two visits to Alabama because he felt a pull for a second look," Arthur Sr. said. "Bryce is just following the process."
Separated from his brother for the first time since joining the Greater Wichita Football League as youths, Bryce was slow out of the gate last fall. A starter as a freshman, he began each of his three previous 1,000-yard campaigns with a season-opening touchdown run on his first carry from scrimmage. This year it took three touches before breaking free. "My feet were stuck in the mud," said Brown, who missed his older brother. "Usually I could look around the locker room and see my brother. Instead I just tried to feel his spirit."
Adds Butler: "It seemed like he got his arm cut off."
Rated a five-star prospect, Bryce went on to rush for 1,873 yards and 29 touchdowns, but his brother struggled to see the field in Miami. Playing in 11 of 13 games, he recorded just four tackles as Miami rotated a talented freshman class into the lineup. "We picked a school that we knew was going to be patient," said Brown Sr., who denied rumors that his son was unhappy with his playing time. "Arthur's a perfectionist and wants to get everything right before he goes about it."
Though family and friends say that Arthur Jr. made the best decision for him, Butler notes that the unspoken factor was where Bryce would go the following year. Now faced with his own decision, Bryce, who won co-MVP honors at the U.S. Army All American game last Saturday, plans to retreat to a similar state of meditation and fasting later this month. Arthur Jr. promises he will not interfere unless asked, but he also knows the spiritual poem about following footprints in the sand may prove particularly apt for his younger brother's potential path to South Beach.
"I'm not going to be swayed by the nicest stadium and Miami's promising future," Bryce says. "I just want God's will to be done."