When Orlando Brown Jr. arrived in Duluth, Ga., three years ago and visited the Peachtree Ridge High football offices, he barely fit through the doors.
“There's something about Georgia with smaller doorways,” Brown said with a laugh Wednesday.
Peachtree coach Mark Fleetwood took one look at the 6-foot-8 giant and didn't mince words.
“Son, how much do you weigh?” Fleetwood asked.
Brown said 380 pounds. His new coach shot back, “Don't B.S. me. How much do you weigh?”
The correct answer was closer to 440 pounds, nearly 100 pounds more than he weighed Wednesday, when Brown was the biggest — literally and figuratively — surprise in an Oklahoma signing class that also gained four-star offensive tackle Kenyon Frison and four-star receiver Michiah Quick.
Brown had been committed to Tennessee since last spring, but changed his mind Wednesday morning and faxed his National Letter of Intent to Bob Stoops and the Oklahoma coaching staff. Signing with OU completed a long journey that has included an impressive body transformation, dozens of scholarship offers and the painful death of his famous father, which remains Brown's chief motivation to this day.
“Through it all, I feel I kept a level head,” Brown said. “I stayed humble. I worked hard. I feel as though this Oklahoma opportunity definitely shows that it paid off.”
If Brown's name sounds familiar, it's because he shares it with his father, former Cleveland Browns offensive lineman Orlando Brown, who was hit in the eye by an official's flag in 1999, missed an entire season while recovering and sued the NFL for damages.
The elder Brown went into the restaurant business in Baltimore after retiring from football, but died of complications from diabetes in September 2011.
His wife and three sons relocated to Duluth, Ga., after his death, which came during Orlando Jr.'s sophomore year of high school.
“I think they wanted to relocate and get a new start with things,” Fleetwood said. “It had been a lot on them.”
Brown began working on getting in shape after that first meeting with Fleetwood.
The coach remembers Brown being unable to properly squat a 45-pound barbell with no added weight.
“He could get down, but he wasn't gonna get down in any deep parallel squat by any means,” Fleetwood said. “It's harder for the long guys to be strong and lift weights.
“But he's been working his tail off In the weight room.”
‘I WANT TO DO BETTER'
Brown committed to Tennessee last May, and fully intended to honor that commitment by eventually signing with the Volunteers.
But over the last month, he started having second thoughts. Oklahoma had always been his second choice, so Brown researched the Sooners a little more — and was very impressed by OU's Sugar Bowl upset of Alabama.
“Tennessee did a really good job with him early,” Fleetwood said. “Here toward the end, he just decided that maybe he hadn't seen this thing out the right way.
“Orlando has been really big about watching and exploring depth charts and all of this other stuff, and he's always said to me, ‘Oklahoma puts so many tackles in the pros. It's unbelievable.'”
And getting to the NFL is Brown's ultimate goal. Not to match his father's accomplishments, but to surpass them.
“I've never looked at his shoes as big shoes,” Brown said. “I've always felt like I could accomplish what he accomplished and do what he did, but I want to do better. That's really what I strive for.”