Oklahoma WR Brown still wants Penn State degree
By JEFF LATZKE
NORMAN, Okla. (AP) Through all the turmoil of the Penn State child sex-abuse scandal and the threats that followed his decision to leave the program, receiver Justin Brown still reflects on his time in Happy Valley in a positive way.
In fact, he will be working his way toward a media studies degree from Penn State while he plays for Oklahoma. If he had not been able to arrange for the credits he earns now to transfer back to his old school, he says he wouldn't have joined the Sooners this season.
As it is, he will be able to finish his school work this semester. He is not sure if he will be able to go through his graduation in person.
"Just being there for years and putting in a lot of work on and off the field and in the community - no disrespect to Oklahoma, I'm sure that this is a great university - but I just felt like it meant a lot to get that Penn State degree," said Brown, one of nine players to leave the Nittany Lions after NCAA sanctions were handed down that allowed them to transfer and play right away without sitting out this season.
"If a lot of courses weren't going to transfer, then I wouldn't be at OU," he said. "I was going to get my degree regardless. Everything worked out. Everything fell in place."
Since his decision, Brown has heard from Penn State fans who were supportive and some who weren't, including a few who he said sent him death threats on Twitter. It's nothing he hasn't been able to handle and it's not like it's coming from his former teammates.
"It's not like everybody is outside of my dorm or outside of the football building here waiting for me," he said. "It's Twitter. You can't take Twitter too seriously."
Before the allegations against Jerry Sandusky surfaced last season, Brown said he never considered leaving the Nittany Lions. And even while the scandal got worse, and as coach Joe Paterno was fired and subsequently passed away, Brown remained loyal.
"That's the thing, even during the whole situation, I was going to stick it out. I never wanted to think about transferring," Brown said. "Even though sometimes there was ups and downs early in my career, since I first stepped on Penn State's campus, there was a lot of ups and downs but I was always going to stick it out. I was really just focused on my degree. From the football aspect, I was going to work hard, but I was really just focused on my degree."
Now, he can still get the degree he wants while playing for a team that could be in the mix for conference and national championships. Penn State is ineligible because of a four-year postseason ban.
At Oklahoma, he's fitting in quickly and drawing praise from coach Bob Stoops for his maturity and businesslike approach to practice. Brown is positioning himself as a potential starter right away in a receiving unit that was left with only one established veteran after All-American Ryan Broyles went to the NFL and three other wideouts were suspended.
All of that factored into Brown's decision to pick Oklahoma, a school that hadn't recruited him out of high school in Wilmington, Del. He also liked the way the Sooners pursued him, staying out of the fray of coaches who showed up in State College trying to pluck away players who were suddenly eligible to join their teams for next season.
Brown refused to identify which schools showed up in person, but said he considered that out of line.
"(Oklahoma's coaches) were respectful. They called me and they even told they weren't going to badger me with phone calls and fly up and whatnot," Brown said. "They were going to give me my space, and I respected that. That was one of the reasons that I looked into OU."
Brown said he isn't turning his back on Penn State. He feels like all that happened over the past year has created a lifetime bond among his former teammates, and he'll watch as many of their games as possible and be there for them as much as he can.
"I'll always have good memories. I think I'll always look back on it in a positive light," Brown said. "I'll always remember the bond I'll have with my teammates and what we went through. Just because I left it doesn't erase everything."
And that includes his time with Paterno, who had the most wins in college football history before the NCAA ruling vacated 111 of his victories for his role in covering up the scandal.
"In my book, he's still a legendary coach," Brown said. "That's a coach that did a lot for the community. Not to get too much into the laws and whatnot, but he did a lot. He might have had some mistakes, but who doesn't make mistakes? I've just got the utmost respect for coach Paterno and what he did."
Updated August 16, 2012