At some point last offseason, Tony Brown was smacked with the reality that his college football career was coming to a close and he had yet to have his breakout season.
“I just knew this is it,” Brown, a Colorado receiver, said. “It’s senior year, so you’ve got to do something, so I did everything I could.”
Brown’s change in mindset has led to a career year with the Buffaloes (4-6, 2-5 Pac-12), who will host Washington (6-4, 3-4) in the home finale at Folsom Field on Saturday (8:10 p.m., TV: ESPN).
The 6-foot-1, 195-pound senior has caught 51 passes for 656 yards and five touchdowns, leading the Buffs in all three categories.
“Having an opportunity this year was great,” he said. “I took advantage of them and I’m going to keep doing that. I feel pretty great with the progress that I made this year. This is going to be the last game in Folsom, so I’m going to do the best I can to contribute and also have fun.”
Brown, who was coached by former CU quarterback Mike Moschetti at LaMirada (Calif.) High School, played his first two college seasons at Texas Tech. He appeared in 24 games with the Red Raiders, who his opportunities were limited.
In 2017, Brown transferred to CU, but had to sit out the season because of the NCAA transfer rule. Last year, he was a solid contributor, with 32 catches for 333 yards and a touchdown.
Going into his final season, Brown knew he hadn’t reached his full potential.
“I just had to snap out of it,” he said. “Being a young kid, I didn’t really get a lot of experience of being on the field a lot, but it’s just the mindset of me being like, ‘Hey, this is it; do something.’ So I made up my mind to actually start working hard, doing the little things, and it’s been doing a lot for me.”
First-year CU head coach Mel Tucker has often complimented not only the talent, but consistency Brown has had in practices and games. Brown sees a much different version of himself when he watches film.
“Watching film on myself, it’s a lot different,” he said. “I tell myself: one percent better each day. Just work on little things – route running, explosive off the ball, stuff like that. Every day I told myself those daily things and it’s actually helped.”
The Buffs are loaded with talent at receiver, led by junior Laviska Shenault, who is projected as a potential first-round pick in the NFL Draft.
Throughout the season, though, Brown’s chemistry with quarterback Steven Montez has been on display. Brown has at least two catches in every game and he’s the only CU player with at least one catch in all 10 contests.
“I just have nothing but good things to say about Tony Brown,” Montez said. “He comes in every single day and just works hard. He’s never missed a practice. He runs his routes full speed, every single practice, every single game.”
Despite playing just two seasons at CU, Brown is on track to rank among the top 25 in school history for career catches and receiving yards. He needs 11 yards to become the 32nd player in CU history to reach 1,000.
“He doesn’t really say much,” Montez said. “He’s kind of a quiet, laid back guy, but he just sits there and just grinds and just works hard. I have a great amount of respect for Tony Brown and what he’s done for us. He’s also a ball player. He’s really good at the game of football. I think that goes without saying, though.”
Brown’s breakout season could lead to him getting a shot at playing in the NFL next season.
“That’s obviously a place where I want to be and I’ve just got to continue to work,” he said. “But right now, I’m focused on these last two, possibly three, games and once the season is done I can start worrying about that.
“I still have a lot left in me. Hopefully we’ll have three games left, but these last two games (of the regular season), I’m going to give it my all.”
A look at Tony Brown’s year-by-year numbers:
Year Rec. Yards Avg. TD
2015* 14 250 17.9 1
2016* 13 128 9.8 0
2018 32 333 10.4 1
2019 51 656 12.9 5
Total 110 1,367 12.4 7
* Played for Texas Tech
CU totals: 83 catches, 989 yards, 6 TD