Ravens' Brown driven to be player, provider

Death of offensive lineman's brother 3 years ago lingers

October 07, 2006|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,Sun reporter

Jason Brown still remembers waiting until the second day of the 2005 draft before the Ravens called the University of North Carolina offensive lineman's name in the fourth round.

He carries the responsibility of providing for a large family, which includes a wife who is a dental school student at North Carolina.

Most of all, Brown is driven by the memory of his brother Lunsford, an Army soldier who died in a mortar attack in Iraq three years ago.

His goal is to prove that he belongs in the NFL. Judging by the Ravens' decision to promote Brown to starting left guard position after Edwin Mulitalo's season-ending triceps injury, Brown is on his way.

"With my situation right now, I just feel so humbled," said Brown, who is will make his second career start Monday night against the Denver Broncos. "I just feel so fortunate that I'm able to help my team out."

Brown has earned the confidence of his teammates.

"He's ready," right offensive tackle Tony Pashos said. "He's put in his time. He's going to handle it fine."

Added running back Jamal Lewis: "We've got a young guy coming in, and I'm sure that Jason will step up and try to fill the spot."

A self-described "country boy" who grew up hunting deer and raccoons near his family's 40-acre lot in North Carolina, Brown, 23, still prefers the outdoors to the city flavor that Baltimore has to offer, often driving out to the Liberty Reservoir to spend some quiet time.

Brown likes to reflect on his brother, who was about 7 years older than Jason and once saved an Iraqi boy from drowning in a pond.

The death of Lunsford, who left behind a wife as well as a daughter he never met, still pains Jason Brown, who remembers being urged by his older brother to pursue his dreams of being successful in football, school, life, whatever Jason chose.

"I think about him all of the time," said Brown, who has one of his brother's military dog tags and hung his brother's obituary in his locker at the Ravens' practice facility in Owings Mills. "I just want to be there for my niece and make sure that she lives her life to the fullest. I know that nothing can replace that [void], but she can grow up knowing that she has a family filled with love."

Thirteen days after his brother's funeral, Brown, a center at the time, helped the Tar Heels record their first win of the season at East Carolina. As impressed as he was by Brown's mental fortitude, North Carolina coach John Bunting said he knew he had found a player of high character after an incident during Brown's freshman year.

After the players had returned from Thanksgiving break, Bunting asked them if anyone had eaten something other than the traditional turkey. Brown stood up, describing the meal of possum and squirrel he had enjoyed. Piqued by the freshman's audacity, the upperclassmen on the team booed Brown and told him to sit down.

"That kind of response would've really shattered some other kids, but not Jason," Bunting said. "Not many kids could do that. He was a leader early in our program, and he was never afraid to speak his own mind."

Fear is the last emotion Brown would admit to feeling. Brown said he has no qualms about making his debut this season in a game before a national audience.

"You have no choice. You have to take it as it's given, and this is the opportunity that has arisen and presented itself," Brown said. "I have to rise to the challenge."

Notes -- Tight end Todd Heap (thigh) and linebacker Mike Smith (hip) were added to the injury report yesterday. Both are listed as questionable for the game against the Broncos. They join linebackers Terrell Suggs (thigh) and Adalius Thomas (neck), tight end Daniel Wilcox (thigh), fullback Justin Green (neck) and cornerback Evan Oglesby (thigh), who are also listed as questionable. ... Coach Brian Billick said there are two ways to combat the altitude change in Denver. "You either have to go way early - like leave [Thursday], to acclimate yourself. But you have to be out there a good 72 hours or beyond to offset that effect, or you get in as late as possible," he said. "So we're going to go in as late as we possibly can on Sunday. For a night game, that's tough."

edward.lee@baltsun.com

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.