Colorado was in the middle of offseason conditioning work last winter when offensive coordinator Mike Sanford singled out one of the new members of the Buffaloes, offensive lineman Tommy Brown.
“He’s from Alabama, he should win this rep,” Sanford said.
“I was like, ‘Oh, we’re doing that?’” Brown said with a laugh.
A 6-foot-7, 330-pound offensive lineman who transferred to CU from Alabama in January, Brown knows eyes are on him and that he’s expected to make an impact.
In his four years in Tuscaloosa, Brown wasn’t a starter, but he helped the Crimson Tide go 51-5 with a national title in 2020 and two runner-up finishes. He played with two Heisman Trophy winners (receiver DeVonta Smith and quarterback Bryce Young) and three other quarterbacks who were Heisman finalists.
Brown also played with five other teammates who took home top national awards, 15 first-round NFL draft choices and seven offensive linemen who were drafted.
He spent four years playing for the country’s premier program and for the most successful coach in college football, Nick Saban. The Buffs – and Brown – are hoping that experience can help a program coming off a 4-8 season.
“Yes, I have been on good teams before and I just try to get what I’ve learned from coach Saban and from the teams I’ve been on and just teach it to other guys,” Brown said. “It’s all about just the details, doing things right. I think the team is buying in. I’ve been on teams that there are guys that buy in and then there’s the stars that keep to themselves. It still worked at Alabama, but here, this team is buying in – the whole team.”
Highly recruited from an elite high school program, Mater Dei in California (which went 47-7 during his four years), Brown fulfilled a life-long dream to play at Alabama.
Brown played in 29 games with the Tide, but only one as a starter. A year ago, he lost a competition for the starting job at left guard with Javion Cohen, who is back this year for the Tide.
“It was tough at the beginning,” Brown said of not winning the job. “But I knew, ‘I’m still on the team.’ I still wanted that team to win. We went to a national championship and I wish we would have won. I still had a role to play.
“Once it was over and I met with Coach Saban … he said that he felt like I did everything right and I’m a part of the Tide forever. I have an Alabama degree. That’s really good to hear from Nick Saban. I don’t regret going there whatsoever. I’ve had some of the best experiences. I became a man in Alabama. It was tough (to leave). It was hard, but you just go on to the next opportunity. Coming to Colorado has been unbelievable for me.”
Brown transferred for a better opportunity to play and has thoroughly enjoyed his brief time at CU. He loves living in Boulder and couldn’t be happier as a member of the Buffs.
“The team is one of the closest teams I’ve ever been a part of,” he said. “I already have some friends that I will talk to for the rest of my life.”
On the field, it’s quite a change going from the best program in the country to a CU team that hasn’t been relevant since before Saban even got to Tuscaloosa. Alabama has almost as many wins in the last four years (51-5) as Colorado has in the last 12 (52-90).
“My expectations were not very high (coming to CU), like most people on the outside,” Brown said. “Being on the inside, our expectations are very high for ourselves and I was genuinely surprised by how good of a team this is. I think it just was a few plays away from being an 8-4 team (last year).”
Those on the outside are projecting CU to finish last in the Pac-12, but Brown sees more potential in the Buffs.
So far, has been impressed with the coaching he’s received at CU.
“The staff that came in here that recruited me out of the portal is an incredible coaching staff,” he said. “I know what good coaching looks like now, so I know that these are good coaches.”
He’s also been pleasantly surprised by the amount of talent on the CU roster.
“At every college program, there are unbelievable players,” he said. “It’s just magnified at the level Alabama plays at and from what I’ve seen so far, there are great players here.”
Brown hopes to be one of them. He has spent the summer nursing a knee injury but expects to return to the field soon. He’s projected as a starter at guard, but could also play tackle if needed. Regardless of where he plays, he’s aiming to make a big impact on the Buffs.
“I have high expectations for myself,” he said. “I really want to have a good season, and I think that all-conference is in grasp. I think that if I go out there and just play the way I know how to play, everything will come my way.
“But when it comes down to it, it’s about taking this team to a bowl game and winning a conference championship.”