Resilient Malcolm Brown’s patience paying off with two straight stellar performances

Peter Sblendorio

Junior running back Malcolm Brown refused to feel defeated after compiling just 63 rushing yards in his first five games this season.

Instead, he remained focused on improving each week and confident in his ability to turn things around. 

“I didn’t really get down on myself,” Brown said. “It didn’t start the way I wanted it to, but it’s really just a mind thing. I just had to stay focused, keep practicing hard and eventually things will come.”

Brown’s resiliency paid off in a major way in Texas’ statement victory over No. 12 Oklahoma, as he racked up a season-high 120 rushing yards in what was the fifth 100-yard performance of his career. Two weeks later, he followed up this performance with a gritty two-touchdown effort against TCU’s conference-best run defense.

After not receiving more than nine carries in any of his first five games, Brown took 23 handoffs against the Sooners and 17 against the Horned Frogs. 

Co-offensive coordinator Major Applewhite believes a nagging ankle injury may have slowed Brown’s production to start the year, and he expects the junior to continue to produce moving forward.

“He’s run hard two weeks in a row, carried the ball against some tough defensive fronts and will continue to do the same this weekend,” Applewhite said. “He’s doing well. He’s got great vision and a knack for eliminating negative yardage plays.”  

Brown’s best season came during his freshman year in 2011, when he racked up 742 rushing yards and five touchdowns despite missing three games with a foot injury. He appeared to be on pace to surpass these numbers in 2012 before an ankle injury limited him to 324 yards and four touchdowns in just seven games.

Despite these ailments that plagued him in his first two seasons at Texas, Brown never lost his motivation to return to form. Seven games into this season, Brown believes he is at his best right now, and he hopes to maintain his health through the end of the year.

“[It’s been a] frustrating two years, but things happen,” Brown said. “Injuries happen, and I just need to keep fighting through it. It does feel great to be at my best point right now and I’m just trying to stay consistent with it.”

Since leading the team in rushing yards and carries in 2011, Brown’s role has changed considerably. He now shares the backfield primarily with starting sophomore running back Johnathan Gray, but the running back said he expected to split carries when originally committing to Texas.

“This is the University of Texas,” Brown said. “Everybody’s good and that’s why we’re here. I did know we’d have to split carries. It wasn’t a problem with me. I wanted to be around another group of great backs.”

While Brown admits the running backs possess a friendly rivalry, he believes he and Gray both offer unique skill sets to benefit the Longhorns in particular game situations.

“With Johnathan, they want to get him out on the edge and get him for more speed stuff,” Brown said. “I’m more so in between the tackles and some of the short-yardage type of stuff, and I think that balances things out pretty well.”

Head coach Mack Brown thinks Brown’s role as a bruiser suits him well, and he believes the running back enhances his performance every time he touches the ball.

“Malcolm’s a pounding back that needs to get it a bunch,” Brown said. “He may not make a yard here, and then all of sudden he’s going to make eight, and then he’s going to make 12. He’s really done a good job in short-yardage and goal-line because he’s hard to keep moving forward. We’re really proud of Malcolm.”

Brown may no longer be the featured back like he was as a freshman, but the importance of his role on the Texas offense is undeniable. The running back is pleased to put the start of the season behind him, and he remains intent on furthering his production every week.