HUNTINGTON — Many times, hearing of a player making his first start early in the season comes as a passing note.
However, for Marshall linebacker Tyler Brown, the start was certainly an eye-opener.
Brown wasn’t just making his first defensive start for the Thundering Herd.
“That was my first defensive start ever in my entire life,” Brown said. “Even in high school, I never made a defensive start, so that was a pretty big deal for me.”
So why did he never start on defense until the Herd’s loss at Boise State last Friday? Simple. Brown was a valuable asset for Spring Valley as a quarterback, and the Timberwolves had the depth that he didn’t have to play both ways.
As a senior for the Timberwolves, Brown was a finalist for the Kennedy Award, given annually to the state’s top high school player. The dual-threat quarterback racked up nearly 3,000 yards of total offense, amassed 41 touchdowns and originally went to Robert Morris to play quarterback.
Upon arrival at Marshall, Brown excelled at special teams, which led Marshall’s coaching staff to try him out as a linebacker.
Making such a transition is almost unheard of, especially at the Football Bowl Subdivision level. However, Brown’s love for the weight room, natural athletic ability and football IQ have all played a big role in his newly expanded role as a starting linebacker for the Herd.
“No. 1, he’s tough,” Marshall head coach Doc Holliday said. “He’s a tough kid that’s pretty athletic and he understands the game. He was a good player for us a year ago on special teams, so that transitioned a little bit.”
In terms of strength and toughness, Brown isn’t your average quarterback-turned-linebacker. The 6-foot-2, 230-pound senior squats 500 pounds, dead lifts more than 400 pounds and can put up 325 on a close-grip bench, according to Marshall’s training staff.
That love for physicality is one that will be tested this week as Brown helps the Herd defense against a tough-nosed Ohio offense.
“It’s going to be a physical game, just like Boise was,” Brown said. “They’re another big, physical team so we have to bring it to them.”
Brown’s first two games as a linebacker for the Herd have gone well. He had four tackles, including a sack for a 12-yard loss, against VMI before making his first start against Boise State and registering three tackles last week.
The former Spring Valley product said that his defensive game is still a work in progress. He even joked that the sack against VMI was the first time in his life he’d tackled a quarterback, instead of being the quarterback tackled.
“I’m learning on the fly,” Brown said. “You can’t really imitate the live game speed in practice, even scrimmages. It’s not as fast as a game, so I’m definitely having to learn on the fly.”
As he gets ready to take on the Bobcats, he remembers the last time that Ohio was at Joan C. Edwards Stadium — a 44-14 Marshall win in 2014.
“Last time, Ohio played here, I was still in high school and I was in the stands as a fan,” Brown said. “That’s pretty cool. Then, I was playing quarterback. I never thought I’d be playing linebacker, playing Ohio five years later down the road. It’s crazy how stuff happens.”