Entering his third season with the Cardinals, University of Louisville linebacker Keith Brown is in unique situation. While his accolades are impressive, time away from the field due to injury has Brown in prove mode as the team preps for the September 1 opener versus Miami.
A one-time Miami Hurricanes commitment, Brown pledged to Louisville while playing in the 2012 U.S. Army All-American game and immediately became one of the highest-rated prospects to sign with the Cardinals program.
Rated among the top 40 prospects in Florida and the nation's No. 7 middle linebacker as a senior at Miami (Fla.) Norland High School, Brown also collected offers from Clemson, Florida State, Georgia, Illinois and a host of others. Among his reasons for choosing the Cardinals was the opportunity to play as a true freshman.
Play he did. As a true freshman, the 6-foot-1, 235-pound linebacker appeared in 11 games, making 5 starts. He totaled a career-best 13 tackles in critical overtime conference win over Cincinnati. A week later he earned Big East Defensive Player of the Week honors after recording 8 tackles, along with forcing and recovering a fumble in a blowout victory over Temple.
Following a season that ended with Louisville crushing Florida in the Sugar Bowl, Brown was selected as a Freshman All-American by FOX Sports and The Sporting News.
Poised for a breakout season in 2013, Brown was forced to the sidelines with a knee injury. He missed all of camp and was only able to participate in three games before being sidelined for the season.
His continued rehab kept him from participating in spring practice, putting him behind his fellow linebackers as they began to learn the new defensive schemes.
The start of fall camp became Brown's opportunity to display his talents and begin to earn his spot back on the field.
“I feel like I can come in and play a big part,” Brown said. “I can do everything. I can tackle and I have speed, so I can cover. I just want to do my role.”
While Petrino hasn't been able to see much of Brown in action, especially in live tackling situations, he has been told what to expect once the team begins hitting in practice regularly.
“It's great to have Keith back,” Petrino said. “We're just learning a lot about him, but all the players tell me wait until the scrimmages, so you can see him in live full action. It's going to be fun to get to see that.”
Known as a player with great on-field instincts and one that packs a punch upon impact, Brown is looking forward to fulfilling the comments his teammates made to the head coach.
“I just want to show him,” Brown said. “I just want to prove it to him.”
His presence during the first days of camp was noticeable. Brown opened and continues to work with the second unit behind sophomore Keith Kelsey, but his play has been solid and he's quick to offer help to his fellow linebackers.
“That's a big help,” Kelsey said of Brown's return. “He was a freshman All-American, so he'll be a big help this year. He's a good leader, too. He helps me out there when I need it.”
Proving that he can be a key figure in the Louisville defense again isn't the only goal Brown has for this fall. With added responsibility in the 3-4 defense, Brown believes that his group will flourish and will become known as one of the best squad's in the country.
“I think we are sleeper group of the whole team,” he said. “I think we'll come out and show everyone this year that we can be the top linebacking corp in the nation. I just want to go out there and show the world.”