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High Stakes Gambler
Tim Layden
August 25, 1997
More than the Big 12 title was on the line when Texas quarterback James Brown rolled the dice against Nebraska
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August 25, 1997

High Stakes Gambler

More than the Big 12 title was on the line when Texas quarterback James Brown rolled the dice against Nebraska

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At the end of his Beaumont visit in the spring, Brown strolls across the rutted West Brook High field. He has big plans. "I'd like to be in the running for the Heisman," he says. "I don't think Peyton [Manning, of Tennessee, the obvious front-runner] is as good a quarterback as I am." But for every cocksure declaration, there is a slice of self-deprecation. He admits to struggling to a 2.2 grade point average (rare is the college athlete who will admit to anything less than 2.5). "I could study a lot more," he says. "But I'm going to get my degree [in kinesiology] next summer." He flogs himself morally. "I've failed in a lot of ways," he says. "The worst is premarital sex, which is absolutely wrong, and I've done it."

There's irrefutable evidence of this. He has a daughter, Kayla Walker, who will be five in November and whose mother, Tomeka Walker, was Brown's high school girlfriend. Kayla is the source of his greatest pain. "She's got it tough," says Brown. "I'm up in Austin, her mother's in Houston, so she lives with Tomeka's mother here. I want to give her a better life. I'll play in the NFL or the CFL or the World League, anywhere. I'll make it work."

He'll have to break down another wall to do it. Brown is too small (6 feet, 200 pounds), too erratic, too scatter-armed. Then again, he's not much on walls.

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