ATLANTA – The bio on the Oklahoma football web page for All-America offensive tackle Orlando Brown would appear to set up the perfect story.
- Hometown: Duluth, Ga.
- High school: Peachtree Ridge.
How on earth, the story thus would be written, did Georgia not keep Brown home? Why are the Bulldogs facing him in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1, rather than lining him up at left tackle?
It’s more complicated than that.
“It ain’t no disrespect to Georgia or Mark Richt; I just didn’t want to go there,” Brown said. “I think I had several teachers that went to UGA, graduated from there. But it just wasn’t me. I didn’t want to go there and stay that close to home.”
It’s also a bit of a stretch to say the Brown calls Georgia home. Granted, he spent his final two years of high school at Peachtree Ridge, but he grew up in Maryland, where his father was a star tackle for the Baltimore Ravens.
Orlando Brown Sr., had a long career in the NFL with the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens. He passed away in 2011 at just 40 years old from a previously undiagnosed medical condition, an event that understandably sent his son and namesake reeling.
The family moved to Georgia before his junior year of high school. Brown initially committed to Tennessee, which backed off in the lead-up to National Signing Day in 2014, worried about Brown’s grades. The family had suffered as Brown dealt with the fallout of his father’s death and the subsequent move.
Oklahoma was willing to take him. Brown redshirted there his first year – too much depth ahead of him – but then he took over at left tackle in 2015 and hasn’t let go, starting 39 games there in three years. He was second-team All-Big 12 as a redshirt freshman, second-team All-American last year and all-everything this year.
Baker Mayfield is the star, but in many ways, Brown is the facilitator. Listed at 6-foot-8 and 345 pounds, Brown makes Georgia guard Ben Cleveland — known as Big Ben — look like Isaiah McKenzie.
Georgia did recruit him and could have used him during the next few seasons. But Brown also wasn’t that highly ranked. He was a 3-star recruit according to 247Sports, Scout, Rivals and ESPN, only the 35th-ranked offensive tackle nationally per ESPN. Besides academics, he also needed to cut down his body fat.
Both were straightened out at Oklahoma – he’s a good student and a good athlete – and now he’s ready to try to beat the sort-of home-state team.
“I’ve actually watched a lot of film [of Georgia]. They’re great, man,” Brown said. “They’ve got a great front seven. They’ve got a bunch of big names, a bunch of guys that are making consistent plays for them.”
Then Brown ticked off the players by their jersey numbers: “Seventeen [Davin Bellamy] is a guy that makes a lot of plays in crunch time for them. Obviously 7 [Lorenzo Carter], he makes plays here and there. Three [Roquan Smith] is great for them. Seventy-eight [Trenton Thompson]. I’ve seen 97 [John Atkins] make some plays here and there for them. So they’re loaded, man. They’ve got a lot of talent.”
That sets up a great matchup between Oklahoma’s high-powered offense and Georgia’s stingy defense. But it’s also a Big 12 offense, and the skeptics say that when one of those offenses runs into an SEC defense, it gets stopped.
Brown was asked if that was motivating.
“Very motivating,” Brown said. “I actually shall continue to say that it’s very important to our success to hear that narrative. I think that’s what’s going to drive us to hear that for the next three weeks. We look forward to the matchup.”