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SOMETHING SPECIAL WAS ABOUT TO HAPPEN. BAYLOR TRAILED KANSAS STATE 36--35 WITH three minutes to go when Robert Griffin III took a snap at his own 27. He stepped out of a potential sack and escaped the pocket to the right. It was evolving into the kind of play that landed Griffin college football's top award last season. But if RG3 was Superman, Arthur Brown turned this into a Bizarro Heisman moment.
Two minutes earlier Brown had intercepted a Griffin pass to set up K-State's go-ahead field goal. Now, spying from his middle linebacker position, Brown began his pursuit. Griffin, realizing this was the rare instance he couldn't simply outrun a linebacker, put out a stiff arm, only to have Brown wrap him up at the ankles, dumping the Baylor QB three yards behind the line of scrimmage and sending him tumbling. Three plays later (one of them Brown's stop of running back Terrance Ganaway on third-and-four) Griffin threw incomplete on fourth down, and the Wildcats were triumphant.
"You know how RG3 went to the Olympic trials?" asks Chris Cosh, then the K-State defensive coordinator, now at South Florida. "I said after that game that maybe Arthur should be going to the Olympic trials because he caught him."
Brown was essential to the Wildcats' turnaround last year. With an underwhelming line in front of him and a secondary long on grit but short on coverage skills behind him, the 6' 1", 228-pound Brown was a wrecking ball, racking up 101 tackles.
But Brown didn't close in on stardom as quickly as he closes in on a ballcarrier. Considered the best linebacker recruit in the nation coming out of Wichita High School East in 2007, he originally signed with Miami. Expectations were absurdly high. Even as Brown struggled as a freshman, then coach Randy Shannon didn't hesitate to mention Brown and Ray Lewis in the same breath. But Brown never broke through on the depth chart. After two seasons of mostly special teams play, Brown's star had faded. "I honestly can't [say anything negative]," Brown says of his time at Miami. "Those years really helped me develop and [prepare] for this opportunity now."
After the 2009 season the Wichita native returned to his home state for a second chance. His arrival in Manhattan was overshadowed by his younger brother, Bryce. A running back and the nation's top overall recruit in '08, Bryce came to K-State following an unhappy season-plus at Tennessee. After failing to earn a start with the Wildcats, Bryce quit the team last September to prepare for the NFL draft. (The Eagles took him in the seventh round.)
Arthur, meanwhile, had quietly gone to work. At Miami he had become a film-room junkie, and watching from the Kansas State sideline during his transfer year in 2010 gave him a new perspective. "You could see [early on] that he was going to outwork everybody," says Cosh. "He outworks a lot of coaches.... He's one of the best leaders I've been around."
This year the defensive line is again thin, and the secondary is regrouping. But Brown is a constant. A potential first-round pick, he passed on a chance to go to the NFL. "My time in college has been a process of growth," he says. "To finish it out [is] an opportunity to further develop myself. And when I leave here, I want to leave my teammates on a solid foundation."
Four years after arriving in Miami as the nation's best linebacker recruit, Brown is set to end his college career in his home state as one of the nation's best linebackers.