In high school football, offensive linemen often get overlooked. In fact, most times you don’t notice them unless they make a mistake.
For San Ramon Valley High offensive lineman Jackson Brown, it is exactly the opposite. Not only does Brown make few mistakes, but he’s impossible not to notice.
That is the case when you have a 6-foot-6, 285-pound high school lineman, a monster of size for the East Bay Athletic League.
Did I mention how good Brown is? At this point he has over 24 NCAA Division I scholarship offers, and by the time this high school football season ends in December, that number could climb to 30 or more.
“It’s crazy,” said Brown of all the college attention. “It all seems to be happening so fast. Sometimes I feel like I need to pinch myself because it’s hard to believe.”
Brown has not put a timetable on picking a college, saying, “It could be a week, a month, or possibly at the end of the season.”
His decision will certainly make one school very happy as they will get a player with a family history of big-time line play.
Jackson’s dad, Tony Brown, was an offensive lineman at the University of Pittsburgh when Dan Marino was the quarterback, starting in both the Fiesta and Cotton Bowls.
He then was with the Buffalo Bills during the Jim Kelly era. After retiring, the family lived in Arizona where Tony was involved in sports talk radio.
Unfortunately, Tony passed away in 2010, following a 2-year-battle with cancer.
Jackson was 6 years old.
“I remember some of the stories he told,” said Jackson of Tony. “I still watch videos of his game at Pitt, like when they played Penn State, just to see what he did.”
Of all the offers he has received thus far, the one that came from Tony’s alma mater was the most meaningful.
“That meant everything,” said Brown of the Pitt offer. “I cried. They were hesitant because I was all the way in California.”
After Tony passed, the family moved to Danville to be with relatives. Despite the family history, football was never forced on Brown.
“There was no pressure from my mother or grandfather to play football,” said Brown. “They never pushed me in that direction.”
As he was growing up, Brown’s first love was basketball, but he also played football in the well-known San Ramon Valley Thunderbirds program.
It wasn’t until his freshman year at SRV -- when Brown was a 6-1, 175-pound lineman -- that it clicked as to football being his main sport.
“That’s when I started to be a beast in football,” said Brown. “My freshman year I had like 15 sacks. I’ve always loved the game.”
Entering his junior year, Brown was expected to be a force on a solid SRV line, but the season never started in the fall due to the COVID lockdown.
While it took its toll on the players – especially the seniors – the lockdown was a blessing in disguise for Brown.
“I gained like 40-50 pounds during the quarantine,” explained Brown, who kept working out on his own.
By the time football came back in the spring of 2021, Brown was the monster he is today. He took full advantage of having a talented group of senior linemen to lean on for help.
“Kyle Ecker taught me a lot,” said Brown of the former SRV lineman that is now playing at UC San Diego. “I learned so much listening to him.”
The spring football season left a quick turnaround for his senior season, but Brown was ready as the college offers started pouring in. When pressed on what he thinks makes him a special player, Brown paused for a minute, then answered.
“My athletic ability – basketball helped me with that,” said Brown. “And my nastiness. I try to get the guy on the ground and keep him there.”
San Ramon Valley coach Aaron Becker sees that every day in practice.
“I think the college offers speak for themselves,” said Becker of Brown’s talent level. “The (nastiness) may be the separator. He gets after it, and he is going to finish his blocks. He is the sweetest kid off the field, but when he gets his helmet on, he knows he’s an offensive lineman.”
Which does provide some anxious moments for the Wolves’ coaching staff.
“Oh yeah,” said Becker when asked if they worry about Brown hurting one of his teammates. “He was going against one of our defensive ends that is a pretty good player and he got under his pads. I thought, ‘we might need to slow this down.’ But (Brown) knows when he needs to slow it down. He’s like a college player facing high school kids.”
What struck me about Brown during our conversation was his level of maturity. He was well-spoken, thoughtful, and gracious.
“He is really older than his years,” said Becker. “He has matured so much that you could mistake him for a kid that has been in college for two to three years.”
And Brown is also grounded. A lot of high-quality athletes I have spoken with over the years carry a certain amount of arrogance. I didn’t get that from Brown, which was refreshing.
Talking with Becker, he confirmed it is a genuine trait.
“He’s flown so much during the recruiting, often times by himself and had to deal with the COVID protocol,” said Becker. “He really learned how to be an adult. I think he looks at the scholarship offers as a way to get his college paid for, have some fun, and play some football.”