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Justin Brown: Faith keeps Brown positive during sruggles

Chris Khorey | Thursday, November 15, 2007

“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

That motto is what’s gotten Justin Brown through thick and thin.

The 6-foot-3, 261-pound defensive lineman has been through ups and downs in his career at Notre Dame. But his faith in God and belief that any negative can be turned into a positive has kept a smile on his face.

“God will not put anything on you more than you can bear,” he said.

And while Brown’s faith has been tested during Notre Dame’s 1-9 season, he said he is a better man for having gone through it.

“You have to take it as a learning experience,” he said. “The thing that keeps me going is my own will and my faith in God. I just try to make every day better.”

Brown played only one year of organized football at Bishop McNamara High School in Forestville, Md. But after he made 65 tackles, had nine sacks and recovered three fumbles his senior year, recruiters came calling – including some from Tyrone Willingham’s staff at Notre Dame.

Brown committed to Notre Dame over Boston College and Connecticut.

“It was a good blend of academics and a chance to win a national championship,” he said. “I liked the coaching staff when I got recruited.”

But that coaching staff wouldn’t be around for long. After 2004’s 6-5 regular season in which Brown didn’t play and spent most of his time “kind of in awe of everything around me,” Willingham was fired.

“When he got fired, it was a surprise more than anything,” Brown said.

Charlie Weis replaced Willingham and suddenly, Brown said, “everything was different.”

“It was like being a freshman again for another year,” he said.

Brown saw the first playing time of his career that year in the season opener against Pittsburgh. He played in all 12 games that season, including making one start.

The next season, Brown got his first career sack against Navy – and then got another one against Air Force.

But after 2006, Irish defensive coordinator Rick Minter was fired and Brown had to get to know his third defensive coordinator in four years – Corwin Brown.

The new coordinator brought a 3-4 defensive personnel package that changed Justin Brown’s roll dramatically. Although he remained a defensive end, the senior has focus more on keeping offensive linemen off linebackers than on containing the outside edge.

But he said the adjustment hasn’t been too stressful.

“After having to adjust so many times, it was a pretty easy adjustment,” he said.

Off the field, Justin Brown is a Film, Television and Theatre major and wants to go into TV advertising. But he has the option of a fifth year at Notre Dame.

“That’s an option we’ll discuss after the season,” he said.

Justin Brown said he would like to pursue a career in football after Notre Dame, but if that doesn’t work out, he has a portfolio of films from his major to show to potential employers. He has even made a silent film.

“It was about a girl and a guy,” he said. “The guy was cheating on the girl and she found the phone number in his pocket. She got pretty mad.

“It’s easy to show anger, so it wasn’t that bad.”

But while it’s easy for Justin Brown to show anger on film, his positive outlook has allowed him to keep from getting too angry over real life – even a football season as bad a this one.

“Going through adversity builds character,” he said. “The past is the past. You can’t change it.”