Oct. 21, 2017

by Kate Maw

As a 2013 Gatorade National High School Football Player of the Year, UVA defensive end Andrew Brown had the opportunity to walk the red carpet at the ESPY Awards. During that experience, he stopped to snap pictures with NBA star Kevin Durant and Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston. Looking back now, Brown recalls the feeling he had from being there with the top names in sports.

“Just the look in my dad’s eyes, to see how proud he was of me,” Brown said. “That definitely touched me and made me want to go back as a result of my accomplishments. It was an experience that I’ll never forget. I even got to spend time with Karl-Anthony Towns while I was there and I still talk to him from time to time.”

While meeting athletes like Durant, Winston and Towns was a highlight for a high school graduate, the thing he really took away from that experience was his steadfast desire to earn his way back.

Brown’s UVA career did not get off to a quick start due to a foot injury. He’s steadily made progress and with the coaching change that brought Bronco Mendenhall and his staff to UVA, that progress has been on a fast track. He has gone from a “full-steam ahead” bull rusher to a more complete player.

“This year I am taking more of an aggressive approach because it is my final year and I have to show the NFL scouts that I can play the run versus just being a third-down player,” Brown said. “It is something I really focused on and I feel that I have played the run better than I ever have in my career.”

Brown started 10 games for the Cavaliers last season and has made an even greater mark in the first half of the 2017 season. Mendenhall drew attention to Brown’s performance after the Virginia game against Indiana, in which Brown totaled six tackles, two for loss, and a forced fumble.

“That was his best football game since I’ve been the coach here,” Mendenhall said. “He’s learning to play run defense. He loves to get off the ball, loves to rush the passer and go up field and cause disruption. He did a nice job in the pass game as well, so he became a more complete player in that game.”

Brown has also found a talent off the field that he uses from time-to-time to escape the pressures of football.

“Music is most definitely my dream job,” Brown said. “It’s been something I’ve wanted to do since I was a kid. Especially after my mom passed away, my grandma enrolled me in piano lessons.”

The budding music producer goes by the name “DrizoBeats” and has been studying the industry since eighth grade.

“When I would hear music on the radio I became very interested in how songs were made,” Brown said. “I ran across the program that most famous producers used, and I taught myself how to use it. My music has definitely transformed over the years. My dad buys me something new every Christmas to put towards my music career. Depending on how I’m feeling during the day, music is what I use as a release outside of football.”

Brown also relies on his friends and family when he needs someone to lean on. One of those is Alabama defensive end, Da’Shawn Hand, who he grew up playing football with in high school.

“I talk to Da’Shawn a lot,” Brown said. “He is someone I can sit and talk to about our problems and even what our goals and motivations may be. We definitely share on common goal and that is to make it to the NFL and make our families proud of us.”

When asked if there was an individual who motivated him to finish off his final season dominantly, Brown had no hesitation on who that would be.

“If I had to narrow it down to one, it would be my mom over anyone else,” Brown said. “She is my number-one motivating factor to get through everything.”

Brown wears the number nine in honor of his mother who passed away on December 9 in 2007. Through the hardships he has been through, Brown also turns to his faith.

“It has always been a part of my life,” Brown said. “Growing up my grandmother kept me in the church a lot. Ever since the days when my mom would have to pinch me to keep me awake.”

Through his family, friends, music and faith – Brown is more prepared now than ever for his final season as a Cavalier. The tougher days have helped him appreciate where he is now.

“My experiences have molded me into the man I am today, to be able to deal with adversity and rise above it and become something of it,” Brown said.

He is creating his own red carpet of sorts. Not just one for special occasions, but one to traverse every day.