What can Browns do for you?
Brown brothers part of stellar receiving corps for Mavericks
Throw a football up for grabs at a Colorado Mesa practice, chances are there’s going to be several pairs of sure hands trying to snag it.
On a team that’s had a dozen different players catch at least one pass, and 10 of those averaging 10 or more yards per reception, there have been plenty of passes (203) to go around.
It was much the same last season, and a couple of states away, Justin Brown was hearing his younger brother, Josh, tell him how much fun he was having being part of the receiver corps.
He knew one thing: He wanted to be part of it.
So Justin transferred last spring from UNLV to Colorado Mesa to join his kid brother. He redshirted with the Rebels in 2014 and didn’t play last season. Together again, the brothers are having a blast helping the No. 23 Mavericks win.
“I just wanted to get a chance to play with him again,” said Justin, a 5-foot-8, 160-pound junior.
“When he first came and he told me what was going on at Colorado Mesa, I just wanted to be part of a championship team, a winning culture. It was a great move for me, definitely.”
Just about every receiver has that breakout game. Josh’s came last season against Black Hills State. He caught only two passes in that game, but one was an electrifying 57-yard touchdown catch and run. He finished his freshman season with 11 catches for 138 yards and two touchdowns, 12.55 yards a reception.
Not earthshaking numbers in the overall scheme of things, but then again, 17 players caught passes last season, with 35 the most by anyone (Virnel Moon).
That’s part of the fun of being a CMU receiver, Josh said. It could be anyone at any time.
“I feel like Sean (Rubalcaba) can just pick whichever one,” he said. “He can trust us and we’ll go get it and get the job done for him.”
When asked if the receivers drop a hint to their senior quarterback as they return to the line of scrimmage — the Mavericks don’t huddle — Josh just grinned.
“You know about a play call, you know if you’re going to get the ball, if you have a good chance of it,” he said. “You just have to take the chance with the opportunity.”
Josh, a 5-11, 170-pound sophomore who turned 19 this week, has emerged Mesa’s leading receiver in terms of yardage, with 27 catches for 470 yards and two touchdowns. Fellow sophomore Marcus Hines has 29 catches for 325 yards and one touchdown and Moon, the veteran of the group — he’s a junior — has 20 for 361 yards and 5 TDs.
Justin hasn’t had that one breakout game, but he’s been a reliable option rotating in for Hines, with 12 catches for 152 yards.
Again, anyone at any time.
“Especially the first three games, we had a different receiver go for 100 yards in every game, so it’s been crazy,” Justin said.
“Patience,” he added with a smile. “It’ll come.”
His younger brother agrees.
“I think his time will come. I think he’s just waiting for that one opportunity; he’ll get it,” Josh said. “I know what he can do, everyone on the team knows what he can do. He’ll do good with his opportunity.”
Both have been in the mix as kick returners, with Justin returning three kickoffs this season and Josh three punts, including his 85-yard return for a touchdown last week against Black Hills. It was Mesa’s first punt return for a TD since Dustin Rivas had an 85-yard return in 2015 against Adams State. Josh Brown fielded the punt at the 15, side-stepped one tackler and headed to the sideline. He slipped away from another tackler and got two terrific blocks downfield on his way to the end zone.
“It was a lot of fun. I talked about it, we all talk about it joking around,” he said of the returners predicting a big return is coming. “When I got it, I had a feeling. We had some great blocks there.”
The Mavericks were disappointed in their loss last week to Black Hills State, but are intent on fixing the mistakes they made and getting back on track this week against Dixie State.
“All we can do is build on our mistakes,” Justin said. “We kind of needed that game to bounce back. It’s unfortunate that we lost but we need to get refocused and keep going and keep up with our goals. The playoffs; that’s our whole mindset this season, unfinished business. Once we get through this tough schedule … we can’t slack off one bit.”
Dropped passes and an off game in the passing attack helped lead to the loss, plus there was an emotional letdown, Josh said.
“Coming off that big Pueblo week, I don’t think we took (Black Hills) lightly but it was like a big sigh, everyone, we finally beat Pueblo,” he said. “We just have to come out to play every week. We still have a chance to win the RMAC, which I think we will, and go to the playoffs. Once you’re in the playoffs, anything can happen.”
And it’s something the brothers from Las Vegas want to experience together. The family connection they have is extended to the entire receiving corps, which is apart only when they have different classes. They eat together, hang out after practice and pull for one another on the field.
Justin has brotherly pride in what Josh has accomplished, and laughs that the traditional roles have flipped — so far.
“I have to keep up with him,” he said, laughing.
They’re the first to look for one another after a big play — with the rest of the receivers close by.
“You’d best believe if one of us receivers scores,” Josh said, “another receiver will be right there to congratulate him.”