CALGARY – Dru Brown understands there’s a route to the wrong place here, where a quarterback can be overwhelmed by the moment and become a victim of paralysis by over-analysis. And so over a college career that took him from the College of San Mateo to Hawai’i to Oklahoma State, the rookie Winnipeg Blue Bombers pivot came to appreciate this: While every pivot needs to know his playbook inside and out and execute the play call, there will be occasion where he’s just got to do his thing – whatever that thing my look like.
“It’s really important at the quarterback position where we’re always analyzing, analyzing, analyzing tape and this and that,” said Brown Friday upon the Bombers’ arrival at their downtown hotel. “There’s a certain point where you’ve just got to go play. That’s the mindset I have.
“I’ve been a victim of over-thinking before in certain games. You’re able to learn from that. I’m not going to over-think anything. I’m just going to go out there, try and execute, rip it around a bit, have some fun.”
It’s almost certain Brown will get the chance to do that – execute, rip it around a bit and have some fun – in Saturday’s regular season finale against the Calgary Stampeders. The Bombers haven’t chiseled their gameplan into stone, but No. 1 pivot Zach Collaros is scheduled to start to get some snaps in after sitting out last week and in advance of the Western Final on December 5th. And after that, the rest of the game will be Brown’s, as Sean McGuire is out with a groin injury.
“I just want to execute,” said Brown. “I want to show the coaches they can feel confident putting me out there and that I’m able to go where the ball is supposed to go.”
Brown’s road to Winnipeg and the Blue Bombers was a long and winding one. He wasn’t recruited out of high school and played his freshman year at San Mateo where he was named the MVP. That led to the opportunity at Hawai’i where he threw for 5,273 yards and 37 touchdowns in two years and was named the MVP at the 2016 Hawai’i Bowl. He then transferred to OSU – backing up Taylor Cornelius of the Edmonton Elks for a year – before finally getting his opportunity as the starter in his senior season following an injury to starter Spencer Sanders.
That’s why Saturday’s playing time will be so meaningful for the 24-year-old Palo Alto, CA product – when you have to fight and scrap for any opportunity they can be precious when they do arrive. Asked if getting some work against the Stamps would equate to an audition, Brown said:
“Any opportunity you get to play is a chance to do that. I guess you could say it like that, but I don’t necessarily think this specific opportunity is all or nothing. Any time you get to touch a ball and make a decision – whether it’s practice or game – that’s what I’m trying to show: that I know the system, I know the game and I’m able to execute.”
The Bombers have loved watching Brown’s growth under the guidance of offensive coordinator Buck Pierce and – as he said repeatedly on Friday – also because of the advice and guidance he got from Collaros, and also from McGuire. The cancellation of the 2020 season meant Brown spent a lot of time in Zoom calls with the men in the club’s QB room and so when he arrived in training camp his understanding of the three-down game conceptually was strong. What Pierce has spoken often about in discussions about Brown is his ability to create when a play breaks down.
“Dru, for one, has a lot of tangible skills,” said Collaros on Friday. “He throws the ball really well. He loves the game of football. He’s a gym rat, he loves to watch film. And I remember meeting him through Zoom in the offseason and he was always asking questions, texting me after the meeting and asking me about this concept or that concept. He moves around really well and that’s conducive to this league. I’m really excited for him to get this opportunity and I think he’ll do really well.”
Interestingly, Brown used Collaros as an example when asked how he’d like his career to unfold. The veteran pivot had to wait until the regular season finale in his first year in Toronto before he saw action and has since transformed into a Grey Cup champion, the Bombers Most Outstanding Player and the front-runner for the league honours. First and foremost, though, it’s just about ripping it up on Saturday.
“You never really know what’s going to happen,” said Brown. “But I’m a competitor and I want to be the best at what I do. So, there’s not much more I can say besides that. I want to be great and I want to continue to work to be great. Whenever that comes, it comes, but the day-to-day process doesn’t change.”
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