- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 1, 2002

At first glance, it would seem Alex Brown wasted opportunities.
He could have left Florida after his sophomore season, a season in which the defensive end had a school-record 13 sacks, including five in one game. He could have left after his junior season, when his sacks were down but he again was first-team All-Southeastern Conference and a Lombardi Award semifinalist.
Instead, he spurned the immediate big money in the NFL to stay in school in hopes of playing on another Florida national title team. Brown and the Gators can't win a national championship, but he's gained so much more by staying at Florida. And he has no second thoughts.
"We didn't go to the Rose Bowl, we didn't win it all. It's probably the one thing I think about," Brown said. "I don't regret [returning] because everything happens for a reason. I learned a lot about myself."
Along the way, Brown has learned from the experience of the Gators' new defensive line coach, Ricky Hunley, and from the birth of his son, Antonio, in September. Both experiences have changed his life for the better, and fatherhood has broadened his perspective.
"Football is a game, and when you think about it, my kid is much more important than a football game," Brown said.
When he looked at tape of Brown's junior campaign in the preseason, Hunley saw the defensive end's boundless talent but he also saw a player who wasn't complete. Brown continually made big plays, but many times deviated from his responsibilities and free-lanced. Brown also didn't hesitate to give his teammates on-the-job instruction, so much so that Hunley had to remind him that it wasn't his job to teach. The defense mirrored Brown's inconsistency last season: the Gators led the nation in turnovers forced (40), but the unit gave up an average of 346 yards, the program's worst since 1982.
Brown and the Gator "D" changed.
"The first thing he did that was impressive," Hunley said, "was he became more coachable. He listened twice as much and talked half as much. … He had to grow up a lot. He handled it well."
Brown combined Hunley's advice by lowering his weight and increasing his speed on the way to setting the Florida career sack record (33, 101/2 this season). Hunley helped the process by rotating the defensive linemen often during games, keeping Brown and his mates fresher and more effective. Florida finished with the ninth-best total defense and fifth-best scoring defense in Division I-A.
"[Hunley] made me look at things like you're not just working for yourself. He turned things around and made me look at things a lot differently," Brown said. "I think I'm far more disciplined, and I think that's helped everything you can possibly name."
Sophomore defensive tackle Ian Scott said Brown has made a wholehearted effort to build cohesiveness on the defense, and the unity has benefited the play of the line. "The best thing about Alex is just the way he has been very down to earth and close to all the guys," Scott said. "He's been a first-class guy."
Brown has new priorities in his life "Now [his] schedule is [his sons] schedule," Scott said but for now, he is concentrating on finishing his career with an Orange Bowl victory. Then he'll prepare for the draft and wait to hear his named called on draft day, which he said will be the greatest day of his life.
"Yeah, we didn't win it all. We didn't even win the SEC," Brown said. "There are so many more things … Everything that happened this year was great."


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