Tahlequah Daily Press

Sports

August 15, 2012

Brown transitioning smoothly at OU

NORMAN — At the end of the week, Oklahoma wide receiver Justin Brown will move into his new apartment. He can finally unpack the boxes and settle into his new home. The journey that brought him from Penn State to here for his senior season will be complete.

On the field, the transition has been close to seamless.

“The last three days, he’s been working with ones,” Sooner coach Bob Stoops said on Tuesday. “There’s very little — he’s still here or there a signal or two, but overall he’s getting it, he’s making plays and he’s good.”

OU has the receiver it needed to replenish a lean receiver corps. Brown’s addition could make a bigger impact than any first-year player on the roster.

Away from the field is where Brown still has conflicting emotions.

He’ll play for OU this season. He’s embraced everything about the program and the team. It was the main draw that brought him here.

But Brown will graduate in December with a degree in Media Studies. The degree will be from Penn State. He’ll take 13 hours of classes at OU this semester. All of them will transfer toward his degree. That was the only potential deal-breaker when he was deciding whether or not to leave the school last month.

“Down to the last day, I was working with the dean back at Penn State,” Brown said. “He helped me out a lot and showing me what courses would transfer and which ones wouldn’t. If a lot courses weren’t gonna transfer, I wouldn’t be at OU. I was gonna get my degree regardless. Everything worked out and everything fell into place.”

But if Internet message boards and Twitter are appropriate gauges, Brown isn’t exactly a popular figure back in Pennsylvania. He’s been insulted and threatened by nameless “fans.” That part he can handle.

“It’s Twitter; it’s not like everybody is outside of my dorm or outside of the football building here waiting for me,” Brownsaid.

They don’t know how he agonized over the decision to come to OU.

He and his Penn State teammates had to go through the tumultuous 2011 season. The one that unraveled because of the cover-up of a scandal that began 15 years earlier. The one that caused a legendary coach Joe Paterno from sanctified to vilified and ultimately led to the Nittany Lions’ four-year bowl ban, massive scholarship limitations and a football program that may never recover.

“When you’re talking about Coach (Joe) Paterno, in my book he’s still a legendary coach. He did a lot for the community. I don’t want to get into the laws and everything else, but he did a lot,” he said. “He might have made some mistakes, but who doesn’t make mistakes? I just have a ton of respect for Coach Paterno and what he did.”

Brown had enough respect for the program Paterno built that he was insulted when coaches from other staffs flooded to State College, Pa., to see if they could pick off players. One of the reasons he was willing to consider OU was it kept its distance while Brown wrestled with his decision.

“That’s a proud place and they wanted to keep all their kids,” OU receivers coach Jay Norvell said of the situation Brown was in at Penn State. “There’s a lot of pressure from the community. There’s a lot of pressure from the alumni. There’s a lot of pressure from classmates and that kid was going to class for four hours every day and going through workouts. It was a hard situation. No kid should have to go through that.”

Brown didn’t do it publicly. He kept his initial talks with Norvell private. His roommate at Penn State was running back Silas Redd, who eventually transferred to USC amid a ton of media scrutiny. The Sooner coaching staff never met Brown in person until he made a quick visit the last weekend in July.

The Sooners offered the chance to play for a championship caliber team and he could still get that degree from Penn State that he covets. Anyone who has a problem with his decision is entitled to their own opinion.

“My teammates at Penn State are my friends. They understand. I talk to them every day,” Brown said. “If a random person comes us up, and says I jumped ship and they think less of me as a person. I’ll just say I appreciate your opinion and keep moving. When it comes to that aspect, you take the opinions of the people you care about the most.”

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