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Friday, November 16, 2018

Commentary

Underdog earns his chance to contribute


Roman Brown is having his best season as a Cougar. His play has improved since earning a scholarship with the team. | Courtesy of UH Athletics

Many collegiate athletes are gifted with scholarships as a reward for their performance, but other athletes must battle for a slim chance to earn one of these elusive grants.

Senior linebacker Roman Brown knows this struggle well, but after earning a scholarship after two years, he is ready to see how far his dreams will take him.

Brown is UH’s perfect example of an underdog. He came to the University after playing only one season of football for Midlothian High School. He grabbed two interceptions, had 42 solo tackles and had nine and a half tackles for loss in only eight games. He received a few offers from other schools, but he eventually made the decision to continue his football career in Houston.

Though he had the skill to continue his career, he knew that playing without a scholarship could bring a burden onto his family. Fortunately for Brown, his family supported him and allowed him to attend UH. He said his family is one of the main reasons behind his desire for success.

“I want to play for them because they gave me an opportunity to come here,” Brown said. “I didn’t have a scholarship at first. They could’ve made me go somewhere else, so I’m thankful for that and it drives me every day.”

Brown has taken full advantage of his opportunity. After being redshirted in 2014, he has improved his game every year. He has already topped his previous record for most games in a season, and he is on track to play more games this year than he has in his first three seasons combined.

His stats have also benefited from the increased playing time. He had four tackles coming into this season. Six games into the year, he has already gotten 53 total tackles.

Brown reached his highest total of tackles in a game against Tulsa with 13. The next week, he came back and got three tackles for loss against ECU in the Pirates’ own stadium.

While his family has definitely helped his success, his own personal desire is the final piece to the puzzle. Brown could have started taking his foot off the gas pedal after receiving his scholarship, but he instead has increased his effort and improved his performance every game.

“I really just want to be great,” Brown said. “I feel like I want to get the most out of myself.”

The whole team was excited for him after he got the scholarship announcement from head coach Major Applewhite. It was a cathartic moment that recognized Brown’s hard work up to that point.

“It felt amazing,” Brown said. “Everybody just jumped on me. I never felt like that before and haven’t felt like that since.”

As the team enters the second half of the season, it will need good performances from Brown and the rest of the defense. In the Cougars’ six matchups this season, the defense has been able to keep only two teams under 20 points. With teams like Memphis and USF still on the schedule, Houston will have to be cleaner on the defensive side of the ball.

Brown can be a catalyst in helping the defense get better. He has expectations for himself to improve every play and help the team as much as he can every week.

“I sound so cliché saying, ‘I just want to get better every day,’” Brown said, “but that’s the case.”

Now in his senior season, he has a good chance to be part of a UH team that wins the conference championship. The Cougars still have the service of defensive tackle Ed Oliver for this season, while the offense is playing at a high level. UH is undefeated in conference play, and many of the teams on its side of the conference are struggling to win games.

Brown, an established leader on the defense, needs to be able to have a big impact for the success of the team. His influence on the defense will be invaluable for UH’s depth and performance.

He has transformed himself from a redshirt freshman with no scholarship and only one year of high school football experience to an important piece of a team with championship aspirations. Despite having accomplished his dreams up to this point, he is still hungry to push himself as far as he can go. He refuses to put a ceiling on his aspirations.

“I don’t want to put a limit on myself,” Brown said. “I feel like I can do anything.”

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