This is one of the best untold stories in college football.
Meet Michael Brown.
The large Samoan grew up in the mean streets of Compton, California, as one of eight children. Several of his brothers played football, at least one in college, but Brown was born with a heart defect and as a youngster had surgery to repair a faulty valve.
Despite his size — 6-foot-3, 345 pounds — and desire, Brown’s parents Maat’va and Salamsina were overly protective and didn’t allow him to play contact sports. Brown didn’t get to play high school football.
But as a devout member of the Church of Latter Day Saints, Brown fulfilled his Mormon duty of serving a two-year mission in the Philippines. And when he returned? Brown was given a medical checkup, deemed 100 percent healthy and was given the green light to play football.
Divine intervention, perhaps?
That led to Brown being recruited by Eastern Arizona Community College and starting on the offensive line for two seasons. Next, West Virginia University offered Brown a scholarship, which he eagerly accepted because his older brother, Joe, was an offensive lineman for the Mountaineers.
Now Brown is a redshirt senior who will start at right guard when WVU hosts 16th-ranked Kansas State at noon Saturday at Milan Puskar Stadium in Morgantown.
“I am definitely a player who broke expectations and put myself to a higher standard of execution,” said Brown. “Back in juco when I first started, I used more of my brawn and brute strength more than anything. In juco, it was make sure that guy in front of you is dead. Or make sure he doesn’t get near your guy. I said, ‘OK, that’s easy.’”
It wasn’t nearly as easy for Brown during the 2019 season at WVU, as he struggled at times while starting at left guard.
“Last season I was more nervous than anything,” admitted Brown. “I would beat myself up mentally more than anything. But now I am so comfortable with schemes, schematics, my friends, the homeys next to me, the center, the tackle and even the guys on the left side.
“Compared to last year to now, I’m more mature mentally. I’m not naive anymore like I used to be.”
It has shown in Brown’s performance at right guard this season.
“I can just call things out now,” he said with a big smile. “If we’re reading a linebacker and two down linemen and we’re taking the danger of the most three, I can pick it up like that [snaps his fingers]. It’s easy.
“Seeing defenses, knowing the difference between odd and stack and four-down and looking at a three-down line, but there’s a guy that’s really on the edge over there. He’s a fourth guy. He’s just not showing you. I can pick all that up now. It’s fluid.”
That is how Brown’s life has changed on the field. But off the field? There have been even more significant changes. It started when Brown got married a year ago to his wife, Anna.
And now? He’s also a father.
“It’s truly amazing,” said a beaming Brown. “I love being a dad. It’s like a blessing, a promised blessing as each and every year of my life goes on. I was promised this stuff if I kept going down the straight and narrow path to the best of my ability.
“Of course, I’m not perfect, but I’m a very religious man. I am an LDS [Latter Day Saint]. I served my mission. My patriarch told me, ‘If you serve with all your heart, you are going to be spiritually, mentally and what you want the most, physically, dominant. And these are the blessings that come along. You’re going to have a wife. You’re going to be exposed to great things in life. You’re going to be able to prosper and take care of your family, if you continue down this path and do the best you can. Not just show it in front of people, but do it to the best of your ability behind doors.’”
That is how Mike Brown lives his life now.
He is blessed.
And now so are we just from reading his uplifting saga.