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February 5, 2007
Ross Browner was one of the top defensive line prospects in the nation at Warren (Ohio) Western Reserve High School in 1973. He ultimately signed a scholarship with Notre Dame and went on to become one of the best players in Irish history. Browner was a two-time All-American and won the Outland Trophy in 1976. He was a part of two national championship teams in South Bend. He enjoyed a 10-year NFL career, most of it with the Cincinnati Bengals. Now 52, Browner is vice president of corporate/community development for Backfield In Motion, an academic and athletic program for inner-city youth in Nashville.
"When I started off in the recruiting process I was mostly getting recruited locally, schools such as Ohio State, Ball State, Indiana. I had some high school coaches who had gone off to those colleges, and it started that way. It went from there to Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State, Pittsburgh, Kansas State, University of Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska, USC. I had about 30 colleges in all trying to recruit me.
"We were allowed to do more visits back then. I went to about 20 schools. How many do you get now? Five? Wow, now that's really narrow. I got a chance to see a lot of the country. I was from Warren, Ohio. I hadn't been anywhere. My parents wanted me to check them all out. My priorities were to play on TV, for my parents to be able to see me play and to get a good education.
"I finally narrowed it down to Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State, Nebraska, Notre Dame and Pittsburgh. Pitt was coached by Johnny Majors at that time. They had Tony Dorsett and all of those great players. When I went to Notre Dame I was really impressed with the players, guys like Eric Penick and Joe Theismann and Al Samuel and Wayne Bullock. I liked the coaches ? Joe Yonto (Browner's position coach), Greg Blache, Coach (Ara) Parseghian. They really impressed me. They told me what a great university Notre Dame was, and that there was national TV and radio exposure. They said we'd play all over the country. That really interested me, that schedule. It was great that they weren't in a conference, and they didn't play just in one area. I loved the idea of playing in California, Texas. They took us everywhere.
"When they brought me up to South Bend for my visit, they took me to Morris Inn, and I was able to eat a lot of shrimp cocktail. That was nice for a country boy, a real treat. And I met so many great ballplayers. Then I saw the campus and found out about the mystique and the spirit of the place, about Knute Rockne and Touchdown Jesus. I can remember meeting Father Hesburgh (university president) and Father Joyce (executive vice president) and (Athletic Director) Moose Krause and (SID) Roger Valdiserri. I can remember them saying, 'Ross, we'd love to have you here. It will be a great experience and it will provide you with a great opportunity.'
"When I told my mom about all of the schools, she said it was up to me. And you have to think about the coaches at those schools I was looking at. Ohio State had Woody Hayes, and Bo Schembechler was at Michigan. There was Tom Osborne at Nebraska and Joe Paterno at Penn State. That's a lot of great, wonderful coaches. But so was Coach Parseghian.
"Looking back I probably couldn't have gone wrong with any of them. But I have always felt like I made the right choice."
Other recruiting stories: Tommie Frazier
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