Pressure comes in many forms for college football players.
For some, it’s living up to the hype of being a high-profile recruit. For others, it’s the challenge of being ready to play early and fill a position of need.
For Florida State freshman Shyheim Brown, it’s validating the confidence of his former high school coach, Brian Allen, at Lake City’s Columbia High.
Allen, who starred at FSU in the 1990s and played four years in the NFL, called the Seminoles’ coaches late in the recruiting process and explained that they had a hidden gem playing not too far from Tallahassee.
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A few days later, after FSU’s coaches had a chance to review his film and do some more background work, Brown would have an offer. A few days after that, he committed to the Seminoles.
Next month, he will be wearing garnet and gold in practice, just like Allen did 20-plus years ago.
“Before I left, basically he told me he stuck his neck out for me,” Brown said, when asked what advice Allen gave him before leaving for Tallahassee. “He put me in the position for me to be great. He was just like, ‘Make the most of it. Don’t come up here playing [around]. … Put my head down, work, do what I have to do to get on the field and play.'”
Before Allen’s call to the ‘Noles, the main programs pursuing Brown were USF, FAU and Georgia Southern.
Part of the reason Brown didn’t garner much recruiting interest from Power 5 schools was because he played out of position in high school.
He will be a safety or nickelback at Florida State, but he often played linebacker — at or near the line of scrimmage — in high school. He also played on offense and special teams, essentially never leaving the field.
“I really didn’t have too much help,” Brown said. “But I’m in college now. As far as playing many positions, I don’t think they will have me doing that.”
The idea of focusing on one primary position is appealing to Brown, even though he knows he has a lot to learn.
“I’ve never really played safety like that in high school,” the 6-foot-2, 189-pound freshman said. “So just really knowing the techniques of it. But as a boundary safety, your main job is you’ve got to hit. And I ain’t got a problem with hitting.
“Basically one thing I think I will need to work on is just getting technique right — the plays, the fundamentals of everything.”
While practices won’t begin until early August, Brown said he already is receiving some instruction from defensive coordinator Adam Fuller and defensive backs coach Marcus Woodson. He also is getting some on-the-field training by taking part in player-run practices with his new teammates.
Like all players, Brown has had his share of wins and losses in those various one-on-one matchups. When asked if there was one particular receiver that stood out, Brown didn’t hesitate to name redshirt junior Ontaria “Pokey” Wilson.
“Pokey. That boy’s nice,” Brown said. “In the player-ran practices, he’s nice. We’re in one-on-ones, and normally the safeties go with tight ends and slots. But I went at corner one day and guarded him … he’s nice. I like Pokey.”
If there is one position where Florida State isn’t in major need of help from the freshman class, it’s defensive back. The Seminoles have 11 DBs on the roster who have played a lot of college football, and six of them have started games at safety or nickelback.
So if Brown is going to see much playing time this fall, it likely will come on special teams.
But he’s not approaching it that way. He wants to contribute early if possible, and he’s learning everything he can from the coaches and the older defensive backs.
“You’ve got Travis Jay, BG (Brendan Gant) … Jarrian Jones. Everybody helps,” Brown said. “[Those are] the main ones that I stay close to, and they get me right.”
Talk about this story with other Florida State football fans in the Tribal Council