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NU’s Charles Brown to face childhood pals

Northwestern v Nebraska

Northwestern v Nebraska

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Updated: December 18, 2011 5:26PM

When Northwestern senior wide receiver Charles Brown was growing up in Englewood on the South Side, he played football with Brandon Green and Johnny Johnson. The trio had played since elementary school and later went on to star at Robeson High School, all the while talking about how they wanted to play college football someday.

As Brown enters the last two regular-season games of his career, Johnson and Green will pay a visit to Evanston. The three will be on the field together for the last time Saturday, when the Wildcats face the Golden Gophers at Ryan Field (11 a.m., BTN, 720-AM).

But there’s no trash-talking between Brown and Johnson, a senior defensive back, and Green, a junior receiver.

“They’re my best friends,” Brown said. “We’ve already talked a couple of times this week about the game. But it’s not going to feel that different because the three of us are so competitive.”

Brown said the college-ball talk seemed to start with him because he started getting offers before Green and Johnson and committed to NU early. Brown picked the Wildcats over Stanford, Illinois, Boston College and Purdue. Brown also had the distinction of being the first Robeson student-athlete to attend NU on an athletic scholarship.

But it wasn’t all easy for the 5-11, 185-pound Brown. He had the added challenge of needing someone to walk him through the recruiting process at Robeson. That fell on several shoulders, but one guy in particular who helped was Vinay Mullick, the Robeson football team’s academic adviser from 2004 to ’07. Mullick is now the athletic director at Perspectives Charter Schools.

Mullick and Brown still keep in touch, and Brown even interned at Perspectives last winter. Mullick said Brown worked in the human resources department but also did a myriad of other tasks such as marketing, working in the athletic department and reorganizing the football team’s video library.

While at Robeson, Mullick said it was obvious Brown was going to make it out of Englewood and that football was only going to help his academics.

“He’s very driven, and his mother played a big role in that and what went on in the home,” Mullick said. “He’s no-nonsense and hardworking, and he saw the big picture [in high school] that athletics would complement academics.”

Coming to Evanston from Englewood was an adjustment, Brown said, just from the perspective of being around people from different backgrounds. But Brown adapted quickly and saw time on special teams and as a reserve wide receiver.

And Brown had perhaps his best spring season last April when coach Pat Fitzgerald singled him out as a “spring football MVP.” Brown has seen action in every game this fall and has seven catches for 84 yards.

Fitzgerald said finding Brown in high school wasn’t that difficult because his staff has a solid recruiting presence in the Public League.

“There was no question [when Brown was at Robeson] that he was a dynamic guy,” Fitzgerald said. “He is more impressive and more fearless on kickoffs and special teams, and that was evident in the last couple of years.”

Brown hasn’t forgotten where he’s from.

And based on his experiences in the recruiting process and as a Big Ten football player, he wants to give back to Robeson. He won’t turn down an offer to talk to a kid who has a college offer or two.

“I guess a lot of guys look up to me,” Brown said. “And they look to me to know what’s going on and to give them advice.”

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