Athens High graduate Wes Brown grew up a Tennessee fan and now plays defensive end for the Volunteers.
Athens grad living a dream playing for the Volunteers
By Josh Cooper
TUSCALOOSA — Athens High coach Allen Creasy doesn’t have too many specific memories of Wes Brown.
The Tennessee defensive end wasn’t exactly a one-dimensional player when he was a Golden Eagle. But the first thought that came to Creasy’s mind was simple.
“Well, I have a lot of Wes Brown stories. Most of them involve him sacking the quarterback,” Creasy said.
“He is the boy you want your son to grow up to be like. He is a great person, a great kid. He plays the game 100 miles per hour. He never slows down.”
The Athens native will be making his first trip to Tuscaloosa as a player when the No. 20 Vols (4-2, 2-1 SEC) visit Alabama (5-2, 3-1) on Saturday.
For Brown, this homecoming isn’t one of those “local boy who wanted to play for Alabama didn’t get recruited by them” stories. Instead, Brown, a redshirt sophomore, grew up a Tennessee fan.
His parents, Jeff and Patricia, are both from Lawrenceburg, Tenn., about 70 miles north of Athens.
When Wes was a child, his father took him to a Tennessee-Alabama game at Legion Field in Birmingham.
After watching the Vols, led by Peyton Manning, the son turned to his father and told him that he wanted to play for Tennessee when he got older.
“At that point it was a dream,” Jeff said. “Then he gets the offer and that was part of his dream coming true.”
Following Wes’ junior year of high school in 2003, he was considered a good defensive line prospect. A two-sport athlete, Wes thought his future was more in baseball than football.
Then according to his dad, Creasy put together a highlight tape of Wes’ big plays and sent it to several schools. Interest in Wes went up. The dream became a reality.
Tennessee was one of the last schools to come in with an offer, but for Wes, he knew it was the right one.
Being from Alabama, Wes caught some flak from several of his friends. Even the local United Parcel Service man wrote “Roll Tide” on the package carrying Wes’ letter of intent.
Alabama, then-coached by Mike Shula, heavily recruited Wes, but he knew Tennessee was the place for him.
“To grow up in Alabama and be a Tennessee fan, that’s against the rules right there,” Wes said. “I caught heck from a lot of people. All my friends, call me and give me a little. They joke around with me, but they respect my decision.”
In his third year now at Tennessee, Wes has never questioned his decision to leave his home state and play for the Vols. When he arrived at Tennessee in 2005, he moved from defensive tackle — his position at Athens — to defensive end, but according to Jeff, he never complained.
Wes says that the most he can do is continue to help the team in whatever areas the coaches ask of him.
So far on the season, he has seven tackles, three of which came in the Vols’ 35-14 win over Georgia.
“I’ve grown up as far as being away from home and doing things that my parents used to do for me that you take for granted in life,” Wes said. “The dishes get pretty stacked up, but we take care of what we need to do.”
When Wes looks at the Crimson Tide sideline, he’ll see his former Athens High teammate Alfred McCullough, a freshman at Alabama. He might see his cousin, Rob Ezell, the Golden Eagles’ quarterback last season, who is a walk-on for the Tide.
“Me being from Alabama, this is very special for me,” Wes said. “I grew up watching this game and it’s just a great rivalry.”
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