The former Oklahoma Sooner known as “Hollywood” looks primed to join his cousin on football’s biggest stage.
With next week’s NFL Draft quickly approaching, Oklahoma’s Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Kyler Murray will continue to dominate the discussion around players of short stature and their ability to succeed at the highest level.
His predecessor with the Sooners, Baker Mayfield, also snagged the Heisman before he dazzled as a rookie with the Cleveland Browns last year.
But let’s look a little closer to see what these two dynamic, diminutive signal callers had in common. And there you’ll find another pint-sized gridiron monster that played a crucial role in those Oklahoma quarterbacks winning back-to-back Heisman’s.
His name is Marquise Brown.
He might only be 5-foot-9 and weigh 165 pounds, but they don’t call him “Hollywood” for nothing.
He hails from Hollywood, Florida, but the nickname is derived more for the cinematic magic he creates on the football field at the wide receiver position.
Considered by many to be one of the fastest players the college game has ever seen, the All-American had 11 catches of 40 yards or more last year. He had consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons, which did wonders for Mayfield and Murray’s successful Heisman candidacies.
And next year in the NFL, where he’s projected to be a first round selection due to his otherworldly speed and skills, people will once again be given proof that despite being a big man’s league, there’s plenty of room for unique little guys to make a huge impact on a franchise’s fortunes.
Brown was born prematurely, weighing a little more than five pounds. As a kid, he was always tiny for his age. So despite being the cousin of Antonio Brown, perhaps the NFL’s best receiver, very few envisioned that Marquise would one day make his mark on a football field.
When he signed up to play pee wee football as a kid in Florida, his coaches kept him on the sidelines, fearful that he’d be easily injured. But when those coaches saw what happened when he got the ball in his hands and the lightning in his feet, they quickly changed their minds.
But due to his diminutive stature, despite tearing it up at Chaminade-Madonna College Prep as a high schooler, Brown did not receive a single scholarship offer.
He was not deterred and went the JUCO route, signing with College of the Canyons in Santa Clara, California for the 2016 season.
But that was after sitting at home for year, working on cone drills that he created to stay sharp while pondering what to do with his future.
In his lone JUCO season, he snagged 50 receptions for 754 yards and 10 touchdowns, leading the squad in all three categories.
And his work ethic was not simply evident on the field.
California junior colleges do not offer sports scholarships, so Brown worked at Six Flags Magic Mountain to make ends meet. Ironically, the roller coaster he operated was known as “Full Throttle”.
With no money for a car, he would walk the two-hour round trip back and forth to work, oftentimes showing up to practice while still wearing his Six Flags uniform.
After proving himself on the JUCO level, the D-I scholarship offers that he should have received in high school started coming in. But when he showed up at Oklahoma weighing a mere 144 pounds, many still wondered, like his initial pee wee coaches back in the day, if he could hold his own with the big boys.
But Sooner coach Lincoln Riley was not among them.
During his first year at Oklahoma, Brown played in all thirteen games. He started in eight of them, and had a team high 1,095 receiving yards on 57 receptions, for an insane average of 19.2 yards per catch, with seven touchdowns.
And no game was more spectacular than the Bedlam joint against Oklahoma State, where he set a school record with 265 receiving yards.
Fox Sports announcer extraordinaire Gus Johnson gifted him with his nickname, screaming out, “Hollywood!” every time the young receiver dazzled with his speed and play-making ability.
Last season, he caught 75 passes for 1,318 yards and 10 touchdowns as the main ingredient in Kyler Murray’s Heisman campaign. In the regular-season finale at West Virginia, he caught 11 passes for 243 yards, roasting the Mountaineers for an average of 22.1 yards per reception, and two touchdowns to secure the Sooners’ birth in the conference title game and an eventual slot in the College Football Playoffs.
No NFL receiver has ever been listed as weighing less than 170 pounds, but his small stature does not seem to be an issue as the Draft approaches. Offenses in the league or getting more wide open with each season, and DeSean Jackson proved, ten years ago, that a little man with world-class speed can catch wreck in the modern NFL.
The league is placing more of a premium on being fast and quick as college offenses are re-making and re-writing NFL playbooks.
And Marquise Brown looks primed to join his cousin Antonio on football’s biggest stage, ready to bring some of that Hollywood aesthetic to whichever NFL city he winds up in.