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Cavalier commit named nation's top high school football player

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Posted: Wednesday, December 11, 2013 8:00 pm | Updated: 11:04 pm, Wed Dec 11, 2013.

CHESAPEAKE — For an hour inside Oscar Smith’s theater, the stage belonged to Andrew Brown.

At 10:42 a.m., he entered the room to the tune of the school fight song and with a former Pro Bowl running back clearing his path down the aisle.

At 10:50 a.m., he received a standing ovation.

At 10:51 a.m., he stood and applauded as well.

From 10:55-11:05 a.m., his ears rang with praise for his football ability, his academic accomplishments and his high character.

At 11:10 a.m., he was holding the coveted trophy.

By 11:42 a.m., he was debuting on SportsCenter.

“Wow,” Brown said. “That’s all I can say right now.”

For University of Virginia fans, the hope is Andrew Brown has better days ahead. But Wednesday morning set a mighty high standard.

To his surprise, Brown, a UVa commitment, was named Gatorade National Football Player of the Year.

“Nobody told me this was going to happen,” the five-star defensive tackle said with a grin so wide it could rival his 6-foot-4, 290-pound frame.

The shock was delivered shortly before the theater ceremony when Tiki Barber interrupted Brown’s second period weightlifting class.

From a former Cavalier to a future Wahoo, Barber told Brown: “Just to let you know, this is what we’re here for — I would like to present you with the Gatorade National Player of the Year trophy.”

Brown thought Barber was visiting to help provide extra motivation for Oscar Smith’s state championship game, a contest to be played 4 p.m, Saturday, at Scott Stadium against Centreville High School.

But, really, the senior wouldn’t need that boost, anyway.

He’s had plenty to drive him to this point of his career.

Both Brown’s father, Andrew Brown Sr., and Brown’s coach, Richard Morgan, mentioned “storybook ending” when asked about what this week means for Brown.

In seventh grade, Brown, self-described as “that fat kid,” was called “Big Greasy” the first time he stepped on a football field.

“I sweat bacon grease,” he said with a laugh.

Around that same time — Dec. 9, 2007, to be exact — Brown lost his mother, Sonia Yvette Carter, to breast cancer.

Nearly six years to the date, Brown is on top of the high school football world.

“Look at me now,” he said.

Now is a 2013 stat line of 93 tackles, 28 tackles for loss, 18 sacks, eight forced fumbles and six fumble recoveries.

Now is him becoming just the second defensive player to ever earn this Gatorade honor in the 29-year history of the award.

Now is two days until the state championship and a chance to finish a 15-0 season two years after he transferred to Oscar Smith from Indian River High.

Now is a 3.64 grade-point average.

Now is a month until he enrolls at UVa, where he’ll wear No. 9 on the field to represent his mother.

“He’s been very emotional the last couple of days,” Brown Sr. said. “Any time that day [Dec. 9] rolls around, it’s a lot of consoling, a lot of hugs, a lot of kisses and ‘Everything is going to be OK.’ ... For this to happen [Gatorade Player of the Year] at this moment, it just doesn’t get any better.

“It’s a storybook [ending] because he’s learned how to lose in life. He’s had a lot of loss in life and for us to make the decision to come to this program at Oscar Smith was the best decision I ever made. At that time, when I made the decision, I knew this was going to be the place for him to learn how to win.

“Now, he’s learned how to win. You know how to lose, but now you’ve learned how to win.”

Oscar Smith is 25-2 since Brown’s arrival. The Tigers enter Saturday as the No. 8 team in the nation, according to a USA Today poll.

“When he came in here, he already had some notoriety,” Morgan said. “But like I told him, ‘Right now, you’re known for being the biggest kid out there, but I want you to be known as the best player on the field. There’s a huge difference between the two and that needs to be what you strive for.’

“He made that his goal and his mission to be the best player — not just the big kid that can run fast. Now he truly is the best player and that says a lot about the work ethic that he’s put in.”

Barber, who starred for Virginia in the mid-1990s before a 10-year career with the New York Giants, traveled from New Jersey on Tuesday evening to present Brown with his hardware in person.

The two have exchanged messages on Twitter for the past two months.

“I told him anything he needs, I’m here,” Barber said. “Now ever more so because I know him personally.”

Barber can’t wait for Wahoo Nation to get the same introduction.

“He is a great kid,” he said. “He has a presence about him. He has great academic and athletic achievements, but I think who he is to his teammates and what Coach Morgan has helped develop him into is something really special.

“I’m proud that the University of Virginia is going to have his services for the next few years.”

Brown ended his banner morning by telling ESPN cameras his good fortune of showing up to school on Wednesday in a Polo shirt and jeans as opposed to the hoodie and sweatpants he might normally rock.

“I’m glad it worked out,” he said. “I did not even know. That’s the crazy part about it.”

Luckily, his Saturday attire will be easier to plan for — helmet, pads, No. 65 blue and yellow jersey.

Charlottesville, Andrew Brown is about to be all yours.

“It all came perfectly planned,” Brown said. “Like it’s already been written. It’s like a legacy or something.

“To play in a state championship game on the same field where I’m going to be playing the next three or four years of my life, it’s truly a blessing.” 

Andrew Brown

Honor: Gatorade National Football Player of the Year

Current school: Oscar Smith High School

Future school: University of Virginia

Stats: 93 tackles, 28 tackles for loss, 18 sacks, eight forced fumbles, six fumble recoveries

Past Gatorade National Football Players of the Year: Peyton Manning, Ronald Curry, Terry Kirby, Emmitt Smith

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