C.J. Brown’s attention is focused on three things these days. The fourth-year junior will earn his communications degree after the fall semester, so academics have taken top billing. When he’s around Gossett Team House, the Maryland captain spends time teaching as an extra coach for the Terrapins’ quarterbacks. Which leads to his third focus: rehabbing that pesky knee.
Brown shows up every morning at 7 a.m. for treatment, then cycles through the routine again during practice later that day. It’s been just two months since he tore his ACL during a non-contact drill this preseason, but he’s off crutches, finally able to do laundry and get meals without help. Rehab has progressed as planned, and team trainers are pleased with his progress. He still travels with the team and hobbles out to midfield for the pregame coin toss. Sidelined by an injury, his voice is still heard.
“For me right now, all of my teaching and my communication with them has been through meetings and film. I haven’t been out at practice yet. I do my treatments during that, I’m starting to work out and that, so I haven’t been out there. On game days, I’m on the headset, communicating with them, when [the quarterbacks] come off the field, I voice my opinion, try this or be aware of this.”
In the past week, however, Brown went from tutoring Perry Hills, the true freshman who took his place and started Maryland’s first seven games this season, to taking a number of other pupils under his wing.
Devin Burns and Caleb Rowe, who once were effectively the Terps’ third- and fourth-string quarterbacks, will likely split time against Boston College on Saturday after Hills took follow-the-leader a little too far by tearing his ACL last Saturday against North Carolina State. In response, Shawn Petty and Brian McMahon, a linebacker and tight end, respectively, have begun taking reps at quarterback for emergency situations.
“He’s done a tremendous job for us, and again he’s one of our captains, on the sidelines with the headset,” Coach Randy Edsall said. “All the meetings, just been very, very helpful, been around the guys, encouraging them, nothing but great things for him in terms of his contribution to our team, even though he’s not out there playing.”
“It’s great when a guy has a chance to sit back and almost be a pseudo-coach, per se,” offensive coordinator Mike Locksley said. “You have a different perspective and a learning experience for when they come back.”
Shortly after Brown’s injury, he met with Edsall, who reminded him of his captaincy, insisting that his status shouldn’t disappear even if his playing time would. Justin Gilbert, Maryland’s right tackle who has twice torn his ACL, told Brown not to lose the competitive edge, and to keep sticking around.
“People have been there before. A bunch of guys sent me messages: ‘Hey listen, it’s extremely painful in the beginning, then it’ll plateau and you’ll feel great, but you just have to know it’s not where it needs to be,’ ” Brown said. “You just have to keep working harder. Yeah, it feels good right now, I feel like I could go out there and do something, but in reality I know my leg’s not strong enough and I know my leg can’t take it. But it just feels great to be able to walk again.”
Brown has remained involved, reviewing game plans and watching film with the quarterbacks, taking the same tests his teammates do.
“This is my football season right here,” Brown said. “When I can get out on the field and help those guys I’m going to do that, but when I’m in the training room that’s my practice.”
When he’s finally healthy, Brown has promised that he will walk out onto the Byrd Stadium turf and find the exact spot where his knee gave way. Then he will begin running.