By Patrick Klein
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Leonice Brown just wants to go bowling.
After years of futility in high school and the last few years at Colorado State, Brown, a senior running back, wants to cap his career with a bowl appearance.
"I've never really had a winning season," Brown said. "In high school we had winning seasons but never went to the big show, to the championship.
"This year, we have a good chance of going to a bowl game. That would be extremely incredible. I don't know what I would do. I don't want to lose this chance because I won't get another."
He is right on both counts. This is his last chance at a bowl, and his Rams, 5-0 and currently ranked No. 23 in the current Associated Press poll, do have a good shot at a postseason appearance. For Brown, the second leading rusher on the team, it would be a fitting cap to a strange, sometimes rocky stay in Fort Collins.
Heavily recruited out of high school, Brown fell out of favor with schools like Arizona State and Colorado because of his low grades and waiting to the last date to take the SAT. Colorado State, and then head coach Earle Bruce, stuck with him.
After a modest freshman season that saw him rush for 206 yards, Brown exploded for 1,051 yards and five touchdowns in 1992 in Bruce's eye formation.
"It was incredible," Brown said. "I didn't start the first couple of games, then I rushed for 150, then 170 yards."
But the good times did not last long. Bruce was fired shortly after the 1992 season and current head coach Sonny Lubick took over. Lubick brought his own offensive philosophy, which included a more passing-oriented approach and a single-back set.
"It was tough at the end of 1992," Brown said. "(Bruce) told me all these things, that he'd make me a great running back. I looked forward to that (1993) season. When he left it was tough to adjust."
Brown had played in an I-formation all his career. Switching to a single-back caused him problems in trying to adjust and his numbers (485 yards, five touchdowns) suffered because he was reduced to sharing time with fullback
E. J. Watson.
"Last year I just had trouble adjusting," Brown said. "I had never run a one back set before and I just never got clicking. It lowered my confidence. It was the worst year of football in my life."
But Brown dedicated himself to learning the offense in the offseason, and the results have paid off. He has 285 yards to this point, including a 191 yard game against Utah State that featured a 69 yard touchdown jaunt.
But those numbers mean that Brown is just carrying on a family tradition. His brother is Charles White, the 1979 Heisman Trophy winning tailback from Southern Cal and the second leading rusher in NCAA Division I history. White went on to play for nine years in the NFL and led the league in rushing in 1987 with 1,374 yards. He is currently the running backs coach at Southern Cal.
However, drug use plagued White throughout his career, and while Brown draws off of what his brother did, the two do not speak.
"He had a big influence on me," Brown said. "He was the first person in my family that opened my eyes to being a running back. He kind of started it, as I watched him do well."
Despite White's success, Brown has set his sights past that of his older brother.
"I want to do a lot more," Brown said. "He sold himself short with his drug problem."
Playing in the wide open WAC has given Brown the chance to do more, because of the multiple roles of a running back in the offense-oriented team.
"Playing running back in the WAC, you've got to block and catch," Brown said. "But it really is just the same as going anywhere else."
"Brown's a breakaway type," Arizona head coach Dick Tomey said. "He's more of a daylight runner, like Billy Johnson (former Arizona back). A lot of guys on the team know him from San Diego, they played against him growing up."
With the offense finally getting the kinks out, the Rams are poised for one of their best seasons ever, and a possible Holiday Bowl bid, which is a surprise for Brown.
"I didn't really expect (the success), not with a new offense," Brown said. "Then when it started clicking I knew the season would be special."
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