C HENEY – For 15 minutes or so, he escaped the Seahawks training camp, escaped the tedium of practice, escaped the broiling sun of Eastern Washington.
He escaped by taking a trip backwards, a trip about 90 minutes south of here, a trip filled with fondness for a place he physically left behind but mentally he will never leave.
For how do you leave a place where you had so much fun, achieved so much, made so many friends, a place that left an indelible mark on your psyche?
You don’t. And he never will.
Wherever he goes, whatever he does, a part of Isaac Brown will always be at Washington State.
“Proud?” he said of his old school. “Very much so. I’m about as prideful as I can get. I’m as proud as I can be with the things we did there.”
It shows in the clothes he wears around the Eastern Washington University campus where the Seahawks are getting through two-a-days. “Today,” he said Wednesday, “was the first day I didn’t wear a Cougar shirt.”
He’s been hearing about it. “Everybody’s getting on me,” he said good-naturedly.
Not that he needs any help, but Cougar alum Robbie Tobeck has been watching out for him. Sometimes the Seahawk center greets him with, “How ya doing, Coug?”
“We know,” Brown said, as if speaking about a secret society.
There are five Cougars in camp. Tobeck is beginning his 11th NFL season. Cornerback Marcus Trufant is in his second season. Center Joey Hollenbeck, who has yet to play a down in the NFL, is with his third NFL team. And wide receiver Sammy Moore, like Brown, is a rookie.
How many will still be wearing Seahawks uniforms when the season begins is anyone’s guess. Tobeck and Trufant for sure. The rest will sweat cutdown days.
For now, they all share the hot days and tired nights. And perhaps every now and then, they share a memory of their days as Cougars.
Isaac Brown has many of them. The last three years were a treasure trove of good memories – three consecutive Cougar teams with 10-win seasons, a first in WSU history. Three consecutive bowl appearances, including one in the Rose Bowl.
Only one of those teams was picked to do well. “We overcame odds,” Brown said. “The guys I played with were scrappy. We believed in ourselves.”
He treasured the family atmosphere that helped create a confidence he believes has firmly entrenched itself in the Cougar psyche. Players go there “expecting to win.”
Now he is with another team that expects to win, a Seahawk team that is favored by some to win the NFC West. In a sense, he is starting his football career all over. From amateur to pro. And the position he played in college, he no longer plays. He is making the transition from defensive end to linebacker, which sounds like a daunting task when you consider he is learning on the job against guys who have played the position for years.
The free agent is taking an interesting approach. “You know how an artist starts with a blank canvas?” he said. “I’m a blank canvas they can create a masterpiece with.”
You can’t say he isn’t confident. Or quotable. They knew that at WSU. They say his motor ran and so did his mouth. Reporters covering WSU always made their way to Brown in the interview room and he always gave them something to write.
When the “blank canvas” remark was read to Jim Meehan, a reporter for The Spokesman-Review, he said, “That’s Isaac.”
He was much more than a wordsmith. He was a quick, strong player who recorded 116 tackles (65 solo) and 22.5 sacks during his career, third on the WSU all-time list. As a sophomore, he started only one game but had 9.5 sacks, second on the team.
The man could talk and he could walk.
If a fight broke out on the field, he wasn’t one to shy away from it. “He seemed to be right in the middle of it,” said Rod Commons, the sports information director at WSU.
Give them something to write about.
Isaac Brown did.
Someday, he might be the one writing it. He earned a degree in communications. “A lot of people go to college and don’t get a chance to work in their field,” he said.
He plans to. Perhaps as a sportscaster or – he’s smarter than this, isn’t he? – a sportswriter.
When the Cougs last went to the Rose Bowl, he wrote a diary for The Spokesman-Review. “They had to do a little editing,” he said. “I tend to get long-winded.”
He believes he would make a good journalist. “I know the probing questions to ask and I get to the point,” he said. He also considers himself a good conversationalist and “pretty intellectual.”
One topic he doesn’t want to write about: politics. “A lot of politics have been corrupted,” he said.
It’s obvious he hasn’t kept his head buried in the sports section. Here, though, in this camp, he mostly has it buried in his playbook.
If this doesn’t pan out, if he doesn’t make this football team, will that be the end of his pro career? “That’s one of the things I’ll have to sit down and think about a lot,” he said. “I couldn’t give you a definitive answer.”
But if he could, it’d be a good one.