“They have tremendous team speed and multiple weapons,” said St. John’s Coach Joe Patterson. “That allows a guy like Wes Brown to excel even more because you can’t key on him because of the other terrific players they have.”
Off the field, what separates Brown is a living situation akin to winning the high school football lottery. He went from a public school in Baltimore to a starring role at one of the area’s highest profile private programs, living in a super-size custom home in Ellicott City.
Brown was first noticed when he was 13 and playing in a youth football tournament in Columbia. Bernie Dancel, an assistant coach at Good Counsel and one of the football team’s biggest benefactors, noticed the running back and recruited him to the Olney school, where he arrived in time for his freshman year.
By his sophomore season, Brown had emerged as one of the top backs in the area, gaining 1,286 yards and 18 touchdowns. Off the field, though, there were issues — namely, his mother Traherra Moore was moving her family back to Baltimore the summer after Brown’s sophomore year, and getting her middle child of five to Olney every morning was going to be a problem.
Brown had become friendly with Tony Dancel, now a senior at River Hill, and then-Falcons quarterback Zach Dancel, and was a regular at the Dancel house in Ellicott City. It only made sense for the family to take Brown in.
“I’m blessed to have the family I had and still have and the family I’ve made at Good Counsel, which has played a main role in my life and helping me change to the way I am now,” Brown said.
Not that adjusting to a new home and style of living was easy.
“It was more rules than I was ever used to,” Brown said. He said it was especially difficult to get used to having a curfew and being home by 11 p.m. nightly. Becoming accustomed to eating at restaurants and making eye contact when ordering from waiters also took time, he said.
“It was definitely difficult for him, it hasn’t been without its trials and tribulations,” Bernie Dancel said.
It also took some adjusting for Bernie and Connie Dancel, who have three older children. From all of their coaching — Connie coached cheerleaders at River Hill for nine years — the couple was accustomed to having a few extra teenagers hanging around their house. But blending one into their family structure full-time required some changes.
In one instance, Tony Dancel came downstairs to tell his mother than Brown was upset. While Tony got in trouble for coming home late, Connie had not punished Wes.
“We talked and we realized we have to treat him like we do other kids,” Bernie Dancel said. “It’s something he has really responded to. In the early days, it was kind of awkward. He wasn’t our son, but he was staying with us and we were assimilating him.
“He’s a full-fledged family member now. If you look at any family pictures now, he’s in them.”
“I call Mama Connie ‘mom’ and call my mother ‘mova,’ ” Brown said.
Moore welcomes the arrangement.
“He’s come a long way from when we used to live in Baltimore,” Moore said. “He doesn’t have as much attitude and he’s more interested in learning in schoolwork. In the city, he went to school, but that was it. He was always in trouble in the city and I don’t have those problems any more.”
A broken leg sidelined him for eight games last season and a sprained ankle cost him three more this year and limited him in a few others. His physical rushing style still produced 1,225 yards and 19 touchdowns, however, and only attracted more recruiting attention as his health improved.
Bernie Dancel has guided Brown through the recruiting process. Zach went through it last year, and landed at New Mexico, a school that was high on Brown’s list until the Lobos fired coach Mike Locksley. After seeing two other schools he favored most run into turmoil — Miami and Penn State — Brown has grown superstitious and no longer wants to talk publicly about the teams that interest him most. Bernie Dancel said Virginia Tech, Vanderbilt, Michigan, South Carolina and Colorado are Brown’s top choices these days.
“I’m ready to see how it is in college,” said Brown, who is 6 feet and 200 pounds, with a physical running style. “I already know I’m not going to be one of those kids who goes to school and says, ‘This is too much, I want to go home.’ ”