From the Backfield Ensemble to the Gospel Ensemble
The mid-2000’s saw Oregon rise from nationally known to nationally renowned. The program became renowned for the great rushers the program featured, and treated Oregon fans to many throughout the decade.
From 2004-2007, a talented tailback ran in the Oregon backfield as a quiet, yet successful backup, while making a special difference on special teams and behind the scenes. Still catching eyes (and ears) at Oregon, this Duck athlete turned his life to another department where he shines today at the University.
FishDuck proudly welcomes 2003-2007 tailback, Andiel Brown.
“Once I make up my mind to do something, I don’t look back; and I made up my mind to be the most excellent director of choirs and ensembles here at Oregon.” -Andiel Brown: Oregon running back 2003-2007; Oregon Gospel Choir Director 2008-present.
Originally planning to go to Willamette University in Salem on a full ride scholarship/starting job for their smaller football program and music school, Brown instead chose to walk on at Oregon and was on his way to being a Duck at the start of the 2003 season. A lot is to be said about the heart and determination Brown had for the University of Oregon, especially given his opportunity to be a four-year starter elsewhere.
Q. What schools were recruiting you, and what made you decide to be a Duck?
A. “Colorado, Washington, Oregon State, Utah, UNLV, and Willamette U. I was originally planning on going to Willamette for their music program and the small college atmosphere. To have football aspect and high school feel was big. But I called up Coach (Don) Pellum and told him I’d be coming to Oregon. By then, it was past signing deadline in June/July, and he told me I’d have to be a walk-on, but wouldn’t have to try out having been recruited. He made it clear I’d have to work for a scholarship at that point. I said that’d be fine.”
ANDIEL’S EARLY DAYS AS A DUCK:
Given Oregon’s talent and depth in the backfield his first year — Brown redshirted the 2003 season to spend time in the weight room, on the scout team, and learning his position.
Q. What are some of your earliest memories of being part of the team?
A. Felt small to begin with a bunch of upperclassman RBs ahead of me (Kenny Washington, Terrance Whitehead, Ryan Shaw, Chris Vincent, etc.) All were bigger, stronger, taller, etc. Only thing I had to rely on was my speed; as they’d been in their positions for years and all had considerable playing experience. Knew from the start it would be very difficult to beat them out.
As a redshirt freshman in 2004, Brown saw his first action in the third game, over Idaho. In only his first game, he proved his worthiness by rushing for 48 yards in addition to catching one pass for 22 yards. He also had his first kickoff return in the Civil War at Oregon State.
MID-CAREER/INADVERTANTLY BECOMING A SPECIAL TEAMS ICON:
In 2005, Brown was ready to share starting time, but highly touted rising stars Jonathan Stewart and Jeremiah Johnson arrived at Oregon. Brown had great potential, but faced huge obstacles in such big team mates. Being persistent and willing to prove himself in any way possible, he kept his options open and looked to other areas to shine in.
“2005 comes along. I’m thinking I’ve got the game under wraps and going to get on the field. Then, they get Stewart and Johnson in! I see the dream at starting tailback slipping away. Even so, I had this determination I’m going to get on the field one way or another. Being good at special teams as a return man, I had lots of people to learn from (Steven Moore, Aaron Gipson, and Justin Phinissee). I was watching their technique and learning from Coach Rad, and eventually my technique got very good to where they told me I had a good shot of getting on field. I ended up becoming the second guy on kick returns aside Gipson (after Phinisee got hurt.)”
“I got my first chance at punt and kick returns at Houston in 2005. The very first punt I got was a crazy knuckle-ball. It went every direction, but somehow came right to me! That gave me the confidence to catch anything, and gave the coaches confidence in me. So, the next year, the scholarship was mine! I became the starting guy at punt/kickoff returns, and never let go.”
Brown was awarded special teams offensive player of the week in consecutive games against Washington, Arizona, California, and Washington State. When coaches saw his abilities on special teams, he got his chance to shine and prove himself, eventually becoming a starter at kick returns.
BROWN AS AN UPPERCLASSMAN; AND EARNING A SCHOLARSHIP:
2006 started strong for Oregon, but had a disappointing end. For Brown, however, it was his best year to be a Duck by starting with strength and finishing stronger than ever before. He started the year as an occasional punt/kickoff returner, with so many successful returns that he earned the starting job midway through the season. Brown was getting very good, and making the most of each opportunity. Sadly, injuries occured at the most inopportune time. Against Portland State he had six kick returns for 104 yards, many great rushes, and one touchdown, just before breaking his hand.
“My favorite game would be Portland State, 2006. Various reasons; including my first touchdown. I got to do it at home, with my family watching. The way it happened still seems like a dream; so fast but seemed in slow motion at the time.”
[FUN FACT: In the Portland State game of 2006, Brown had broken his hand, yet felt minimal pain and had a career day over his hometown Vikings. In fact, he even gave the stiff-arm to a defender with his broken hand!]
“2006 Portland State, my family was there watching. I had lots of friends on Portland State’s team; and that was the first time I got 100 yards punt returning. Got my first game ball returning as well.”
Brown was forced to miss the remainder of 2006 following hand surgery. In 2007, he stood out on kick/punt returns. He had a career day at Stanford with a 78 yard return. Sadly, his chance to shine as a starter crashed when he was one of many player to end 2007 early to injuries. However, he finished the year with 20 kick returns; leading team in punt returns with 177 yards and 240 yards total in kick returns.
Q. What did your position coach teach you that sticks out the most? Do you have any specific stories?
A. I went to a week-long football camp at Oregon State when I was in high school. That same summer, I went to a half-day camp at Oregon and worked with coach Gary Campbell. In that half day, I learned more with Coach Cam than I did in one entire week at OSU! Campbell (in that camp, and in Oregon career) specifically taught the finer points of balance, body control, about studying defense, how to fake defenders with eyes, stiff-arming, and common sense to make NFL ready. Campbell invested in me as a man, not just a player. He gave me the first shot, as I came in at defense as a corner. He took a chance on me, and let me fulfill my wish. A father figure in many aspects and would do anything for his players.
POST OREGON CAREER:
Andiel Brown graduated from Oregon, and got the opportunity to stick around working in the music department. Being passionate about singing and choir, the perfect opportunity arose when the UO Gospel Choir Director retired just as Brown graduated. Brown tells the story of his immediate transition from a player and music student to a music instructor:
“My last game was the 2007 Sun Bowl. From then on, I was focused on graduating. An ankle injury prevented me from any combines, which I took as a sign I was supposed to do something else. I knew there was a different calling in my life and focused on graduating. Meanwhile, some opportunities arose in the music department, where the dean said he would accept my resume for a teaching spot. (I’d never made a resume!) Another way Coach Pellum was so helpful in path, as he assisted with resume.
Was offered job that summer (2008). Immediately after graduation, I’m a faculty member at an accredited university. No downtime in between, and now having to recruit students. It was an amazing transition having to go from one lifestyle to the other (student to staff). Everything I went through being a student athlete music major at Oregon prepared me for this position. But I truly believe as far as organization and success despite any obstacles – I learned playing football at Oregon. The rest is history.”
WHERE ARE THEY NOW
Brown is in his sixth year as a professor in the same department he majored in as a student, where he directs the very successful gospel choir. He has raised them to fortune and fame as a national powerhouse since his hire, as they have toured overseas and won championships. “Winning back-to-back national championships, being the first university gospel group to go to China and public tour there – we’re definitely on the path to be known as an excellent group.“ For Brown, giving the students the experience is the highlight of his career, and he never could have done it without role models like Campbell, Pellum, Radcliffe, and the leadership skills he acquired as an Oregon Student Athlete.