After an injury-riddled junior season with Upper St. Clair High School just south of Pittsburgh, 2023 running back Jamaal Brown was just happy to be able to showcase exactly why Pitt made him a priority when he first arrived in the area.
Brown, 5-foot-11, 210 pounds, is originally from central Florida, but he moved up to Pennsylvania ahead of the 2020 season. After a sophomore season at USC in which he recorded just 42 carries, racking up 317 yards and three touchdowns (at 7.5 yards per carry), his junior season didn’t exactly go to plan.
Brown came down with COVID-19 last summer, severely impacting his summer of camps and college visits, and when he entered his junior season, a broken ankle limited his availability — and production — all season long. With 328 yards and three touchdowns on 61 carries as a junior, while a respectable season, it wasn’t what Brown felt he was capable of — especially with the injuries he played through all season.
So, with Pitt’s Sunday, Brown felt like he was able to showcase exactly what interested Pitt when he originally arrived as a fresh recruit at USC.
“It was great to finally be back,” Brown told PSN. “I didn’t get to go to camp last year, I got COVID last year during the first time. It was really just great to go back and showcase what I can do because I used to talk with Pitt heavy and then I got hurt and the conversation died down, and it was really good to go back and showcase that I’m still a great player and still got the ability.”
In addition to a strong showing during drills Sunday, flashing both a rushing and receiving ability out of the backfield, Brown impressed with a 4.5 40-yard dash time, 9.7-foot broad jump and a 7-1 1v1 showing — it was exactly what he wanted to do in order to jump back onto the coaches’ radars.
— Jamaal “JB” Brown (@Jamaal_Brown7) June 12, 2022
With the flow of Sunday’s camp, working through drills and competing in building his résumé, Brown found himself with Pitt running backs coach Andre Powell for some of the afternoon. The pair conversed, with Brown learning that Pitt wanted to take two running backs in the class and while the events of the next few weeks could determine how Brown’s potential Pitt career could unfold, he likes Powell — and feels like those feelings are mutual.
“Pitt’s Power Five, and I know college football is a business, they don’t have time to wait around,” Brown said. “They got guys wanting to play, they evaluate film, they evaluate us player just like we evaluate them as coaches. I don’t think it’s any bad blood really, I think it’s just a business, and I get it, I was hurt and came back to camp, and it’s not their fault, they wanted to see me perform — and I did that — and now I think they realize I’m still that guy.”
“I think I really just reopened their eyes today,” Brown said. “Like, I’m back. I’m the same Jamaal Brown. It was good to see they still knew who I was.”
The relationship between Brown and Pitt was strong when he first arrived at USC, Brown said, with Pitt being one of the first schools in contact, but his injury sort of stalled a lot of schools in pursuit. The opportunity to showcase that he’s still who he knew he was isn’t something that was taken lightly.
“It would be a dream of mine to go to Pitt,” Brown said. “I didn’t even grow up here, that’s the crazy part. I moved from Miami two years ago, so coming here, it being the big school in the hometown, it would be huge to get that (offer) and have that under my belt.”
With offers from Bryant, Army, Indiana State, Monmouth, Albany, Navy, Richmond, Stony Brook, Robert Morris, Maine, St. Francis and Youngstown State, it isn’t an offer sheet loaded with major Division I powers, but it’s a legitimate list. And with a strong finish this summer of camps, and senior season at USC, that list of offers could explode. Brown certainly believes he’ll be a difference-maker wherever he goes.
“Well, I truly believe that I can change any program,” Brown said. “I think I’m definitely a big player. I think I deserve the big offers, I think I’m a big player. I’m a game-changer.”
Brown will be camping at Youngstown State, Penn State and Kent State the rest of the summer, and while he doesn’t have any current future plans with Pitt, he’s open to the idea of furthering that bond — possibly for the next four, five years.
“I know Pitt’s offered a whole bunch of hometown guys, I don’t think they’ve gotten any in this class yet, so I think it would be great to add one to that list,” Brown said. “I think getting a hometown guy is just big-time because it’s your hometown guy. We’re in your backyard, so it comes with the fanbase. So I think adding that to their roster would be huge.”
While Brown isn’t highly regarded as a recruit in the class of 2023, without a running back in the class of 2022 — with 2022 three-star running back Jordaan Bailey not enrolling at Pitt — and without a current running back commit in th class of 2023, Brown could be someone that Pitt looks at as an area of need.