“He always wanted to go somewhere where he could make a difference. He never wanted to go somewhere where he just fit in.’’
Those are the words of Anthony Brown, Sr. as he described the motivation and dedication of his son, Anthony Brown Jr., the newest quarterback at the University of Oregon.
But will Anthony Jr. win the starting job in Eugene over the likes of Tyler Shough and other talented quarterbacks?
I first discovered Brown while I was covering Southern Mississippi football in 2016. In a twisted odyssey that started with the transfer of Kentucky quarterback Patrick Towles to Boston College, I began hearing of Anthony Brown, Jr. who, despite being just a three-star recruit, was already being touted as a four-year starter for the Eagles.
Why would a three-star be in such demand when the rating services didn’t pay him much mind? Why was this ABJ kid at the top of recruiting boards for Northwestern, Syracuse, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, Navy, Army, Air Force, and others? Why was Syracuse practically frothing because the Orangemen thought they had him?
We all thought Brown was the new Orange. I mean, it made sense. The SU coach, the style of play, the needs that Syracuse had at the time. It made even more sense when we learned that he was already working out with former Syracuse starting quarterback Madai Williams.
But still— the kid was a three-star, so why all the fuss?
Yes, he has a big arm and he’s mobile, but so are others. What set Brown apart was his maturity and his infectious ability to lead teammates with determination when hardships happen. That comes from parents who are involved and who taught him that when things get hard, you work harder and you keep your chin up.
As an example, after Anthony suffered his second severe knee injury, his mother said, “I told him how tough it was going to be, and even though I’m not an athlete, I can understand what he was dealing with. He was very positive from the beginning, even right after the injury.”
Brown worked hard to recover and he was able to do that because he had learned an important principle: Whatever it takes to succeed, that is exactly what he will do.
Critics have pointed out that Brown’s career hasn’t been enough to gain much national acclaim. In a way, I think he might have been a bit hood-winked when he signed with Boston College over Syracuse. In one interview, Brown said that BC had promised to open up its run-first offense to accommodate him as a dual-threat. That just never happened and I suspect that is one reason Brown has transferred to Oregon.
And what an opportunity for him. Oregon’s new offensive coordinator Joe Moorehead is going to blow the former Duck scheme to oblivion and institute a wide-open and very creative offense that will bring out the best in Anthony Brown, Jr.
Brown’s passing statistics haven’t been exactly electrifying. In fact, his career stats are less than departing Duck quarterback Justin Herbert, but let’s take a closer look at those stats and see them from a little different angle.
Although Herbert wins the career stat battle, Brown wins when it comes to every important passing stat getting better every year for three years in a row.
Interception rate: 3.5% as a freshman, 3.2% as a sophomore, 1.5% as a junior. (2.2 is about average)
Completion percentage: 52% as a freshman, 55% as a sophomore, 59% as a junior.
Yards per attempt: 5.2 as a freshman, 7.4 as a sophomore, 9.1 as a junior.
Overall rating: 104% as a freshman, 135% as a sophomore, 155% as a junior
Brown came into college football without the polish of Herbert but after three years of hard work, his 2019 stats compare well. Some examples:
Passing yards per attempt [long ball]: Brown 9.1, Herbert 8.1
Interception rate: Herbert 1.4%, Brown 1.5%
Pass rating: Herbert 157, Brown 155
Moorehead’s system thrives when it has a quarterback who can run effectively. Oregon fans loved the few times the Ducks turned Herbert loose because he was fast and rather agile. Even so, Brown has a career rushing average that is 38% better despite two knee injuries. The fact that he was offered scholarships to play quarterback for all three service academies tells you how valuable he is as a runner.
Tyler Shough is the most experienced quarterback returning from last year’s Duck team. He has 17 total plays in his career. Brown has 800. Both are starting from scratch in learning a new system.
I would be surprised if any one but Brown started Oregon’s opening game.
That is not to say that Tyler Shough is out of the picture. By no means. The fact that Brown missed 24% of the games at Boston College and the most severe of his injuries occurred without contact, tells us that Shough will get his opportunities.
Anthony Brown won’t replace the dazzling passes of Justin Herbert. He’ll throw erratic interceptions that will frustrate but he’ll also throw that long ball that ignites Autzen Stadium as well as the hopes of fans.
Just having Brown on the roster makes Oregon better because of the competition between quarterbacks. And even if Brown ultimately does not start or even play, Oregon football is better with him in the program because he’s a team guy. He won’t grouse on the sidelines because things didn’t go his way. Instead, he will help Shough because that’s how you win.
It’s all a part of that principle he learned long ago: Whatever it takes to succeed, that is exactly what he will do.