Editor’s note: Every day, from now until Penn State football’s Class of 2017 reports to campus June 24, we’ll highlight a different one of the Nittany Lions’ 17 incoming signees. Today is Day 8 of the 17-day series.
In this installment of our ongoing series, we caught up with Georgia three-star cornerback D.J. Brown — an underrated playmaker who claims to be the best water polo player in the world and believes he can compete with anyone on the football field.
It was an interesting conversation for sure. Check it out:
Q: We’ll start with a question I’m sure you get a lot. As a kid from all the way down in Georgia, why’d you decide to commit and play for the Nittany Lions?
A: It was definitely different. I’m not from up north, so I didn’t realize how important or how big Penn State actually was. All I’m used to is Georgia, Florida, Auburn and Alabama, the SEC schools. When I came up here for a visit for the first time, I saw how nice everything was between the coaching staff and the environment. I basically fell in love with it, and I haven’t looked back since.
Q: Growing up down there, was there a school you liked as a kid? Obviously the SEC schools are so popular.
A: Surprisingly, the school I liked growing up was Oregon. I fell in love with their play style, uniforms and the whole thing they had going for them.
Q: I also saw you had an offer from Harvard. That had to be intriguing.
A: It was just a testament to how well I did in the classroom and how serious I take my academics. ... My mom is a school teacher, so from a very young age she instilled in me the importance of grades and education. That was a big deciding factor in choosing Penn State. They have one of the top academic institutions in the country. It’s very important to me.
Q: Now, personally, I’m not big into the three-star, four-star, five-star differentiation. But every major recruiting site had you as a three-star prospect. Do you think that was too low?
A: Personally, I feel like I can play with anybody in the country. When I played at the RisingSeniors.com Georgia Junior Bowl with all the four- and five-star recruits you can think of coming out of Georgia, I ended up starting and stood out. I had the most picks that week in practice, so that proved to me that I could play with anybody.
Q: Who were some of the guys you went up against?
A: Richard LeCounte III (five-star safety, Georgia), AJ Terrell (four-star cornerback, Clemson), Will Poole (three-star cornerback, Georgia), Trey Blount (three-star receiver, Georgia), Jeremiah Holloman (four-star receiver, Georgia), Kurt Taylor (three-star running back, Michigan), Deangelo Gibbs (four-star safety, Georgia), really any guy you could think of coming out of Georgia. At the time, I was still wondering how I’d feel in comparison to these other guys. That week definitely assured me of how well I could play. After that, I didn’t really worry about “stars” or anything.
Q: At 5-foot-11, you fit the mold of the cornerback Penn State has been succeeding with under James Franklin and his staff — 5-foot-9 Grant Haley and 5-foot-11 John Reid come to mind. How would you describe yourself as a defensive back, and how do you think that jells with Penn State’s defensive philosophy?
A: I’m a smart player. That’s something I take pride in myself, watching film and knowing what’s going to happen. I’m a playmaker. I can affect the game in more than just one way. I feel like I’m versatile and would be an addition to the team as a team player.
Q: You mentioned watching film. Is it just film of your stuff, or other guys in the NFL or college?
A: I always try to find some different techniques that other stars do, whether it’s in the NFL or college. I watched (Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback) Vernon Hargreaves all the time when I was younger and he was at Florida. It’s not just about me. I love to see what other people are doing, seeing how they impact the game.
Q: Your primary Penn State recruiter was Terry Smith. Outside of Smith, who else was instrumental in bringing you to Penn State? Do you have a relationship with fellow Georgia native Grant Haley at all?
A: I have a huge relationship with Grant. Every time I’ve gone up there, I stayed with him. I talk to him a lot. I wouldn’t say he was recruiting me because I was pretty much committed by time I was getting in good with him, but he’s definitely a good friend of mine. I appreciate everything he’s done for me so far.
Q: Where were you when he returned that blocked kick for a touchdown against Ohio State? How hyped were you watching that?
A: I was in the third row of the stands (at Beaver Stadium). That’s probably the most energetic moment I’ve ever had. It’s just like, “Oh, we’re about to beat Ohio State, the No. 2 team in the country.” It was crazy. It was something I’ll never forget. It was just amazing, and I’m so happy it was him that did it because he was struggling with injuries that year. I’m just so glad it was him.
Q: Really switching gears here a bit, but I’ve just got to ask you: In your Twitter bio, you claim to be the best water polo player in the world. Care to explain?
A: I pride myself in being a great athlete. Water polo is one of things I take up in my spare time, and I feel like I’m the greatest.
Q: I’ve never heard of a football player who plays water polo. I don’t know anyone at all who plays water polo.
Q: When and why did you start playing?
A: In school our P.E. coach would come up with different games to play. Not typical games, like kickball, dodgeball or basketball. We think outside the box. Water polo was one of those games, and I liked it. It’s fun and good exercise.
Q: That’s awesome. Anyway, we’ll get into some rapid fire questions to end it. Just blurt out the first thing that comes to mind. M.J. or LeBron?
A: LeBron. 100 percent. Biggest LeBron fan other than his mom.
Q: What’s the first thing you’d buy if you won the lottery?
A: Oooo. A Bugatti.
Q: Favorite movie?
Q: Go-to show on Netflix?
A: The Boondocks.
Q: One athlete — dead or alive — you’d like to meet?
A: LeBron James.
Overview of D.J. Brown
Hometown/high school: College Park, Ga./Creekside
Height/weight: 5-foot-10/175 pounds
Position: Defensive back
Recruit rankings: 3 stars (247, ESPN, Rivals, Scout)
Other scholarship offers: California, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Kentucky, Louisville, Minnesota, Mississippi State, Northwestern, Purdue, UCLA, Wake Forest, Wisconsin
Cornerbacks coach Terry Smith says: “D.J. Brown is another fast, athletic guy — gives us a little more lift. We’re looking to upgrade our position with some lift, athleticism, and just keep getting better, faster athletes that compete in the room and push the level of competition to make us better.”