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October 28, 2021

Philly native and WVU RB Leddie Brown stayed in school last year, and it could pay off big time

Nine months ago, Leddie Brown stared down at a list of doubt, smacked his hand on his forehead and laughed. Everything he has always been able to do on a football field suddenly came with question marks.

The 2017 Neumann-Goretti graduate has heard it his whole life: He can’t do this, he can’t do that, he’s not supposed to outrun anyone, or be able block.

Brown, a 5-foot-11, 218-pound senior tailback at West Virginia, remains one of the best kept secrets in the country. But that won’t last long, especially if he continues to do what he did last week, leading the Mountaineers to a 29-17 Big 12 victory at TCU.

West Virginia is not having a sterling season, sitting at 3-4 overall and 1-3 in the Big 12.

But Brown is.

He leads the Mountaineers in rushing with 533 yards on 119 carries, averaging 76.1 yards a game and 4.5 yards per carry. He’s tied for 15th in nation in touchdowns with 10, nine rushing. His 80-yard TD run in West Virginia’s season-opening 27-21 victory over Virginia Tech is the longest rushing TD in the Big 12 this season and among the longest in the country.

He’s strong. He’s fast. He’s explosive.

Yet, in December of last year, as he was thinking of foregoing his senior year and entering the NFL Draft, the report he received dredged up old memories of all the times he was told about the supposed things he couldn’t do.

“My scouting report came back and said I didn’t have breakaway speed and my pass protection was another of concern, and that I couldn’t catch the ball out of the backfield and I couldn’t run routes,” said Brown, who will graduate in December with a degree in multi-disciplinary studies (with three minors equaling one major). “It brought all of those things I heard growing up. My whole life I was the underdog. I got to high school I was told I wouldn’t do well, and when I got to college, I heard the same thing.

“I lot of ‘cant’s.’ I’ve always wanted to prove people wrong, When I saw that NFL scouting report, I was determined to prove I could do all the things they said I couldn’t do.

Brown could be another Brian Westbrook for an NFL team.

When you see clips of Brown, it appears he’s moving in real time and everyone else on the field is moving in slow motion. He has the attitude that when the ball is in his hands—he controls the field. His vision has improved since his freshman year.

The game has slowed considerably for him.

“I knew back in January, when I got my NFL scouting report, I laughed,” said Brown, who’s named after his uncle, Leddie James Brown, a Philadelphia police officer killed in the line of duty. “I knew this year would be different just by looking at that report. My success this year doesn’t come as a surprise to me, because I busted my ass all off-season.

“I worked with (Neumann-Goretti coach) Dwayne Thomas in Delaware and kept working on what I had to improve on. Coach Thomas has been a big help to me, and (West Virginia running back) coach (Chad) Scott. My attitude coming to West Virginia was to play my three years, and then declare for the draft.”

He was third on the Mountaineers’ depth chart his freshman and sophomore years, complicated by nagging ankle sprains. That set him back, too. Brown began the show glimpses as a junior what he was capable of doing during the COVID-19 impacted 2020 season, ranked No. 26 nationally in total touchdowns (11), No. 31 nationally in rushing touchdowns (9), No. 14 nationally in rushing yards (1,010) and No. 27 in rush yards per game (101.0).

Brown started all 10 games as a junior, finishing with 1,010 yards rushing and nine touchdowns with a long touchdown run of 87 yards against Kansas. He also finished as the third-leading receiver for the Mountaineers with 31 receptions for 202 yards and two touchdowns.

“None of Leddie’s success surprises me,” Thomas said. “From the sixth grade on, Leddie was special. Leddie plays with a chip on his shoulders, and when I met Leddie, I was training kids like (former Eagle) Wendell Smallwood and (former NFL player) Jhurell Pressley and Leddie would hang with those guys.

“I knew then, sixth, seventh grade, the kid was special. Leddie got his information from the NFL, and it told him to go back to school. I spoke with Leddie and coach Scott, and we looked at a few things and (West Virginia head coach) Neal Brown thought Leddie could really develop into a leader.

“Leddie decided to come back to school and the information Leddie was getting, he trusted. He was told he couldn’t block, and he’s turned into the best blocking back in the country. He’s Brian Westbrook—but he’s bigger than Brian Westbrook.

“This was a great move for Leddie. He’s going to be drafted.”

Nine months ago, Leddie Brown was looking down at a list of doubt. Now every time he has the ball in his hands, he’s gaining more traction from NFL scouts and when he sees himself on film, he sees … “The best back in the country, honestly,” Brown said. “I’m going to graduate in December and hopefully play in a bowl game, then go straight to training.

“The goal is making it to the NFL, and I’ll do anything and everything I have to do to make it. When I look back on this, I don’t think I would change anything. All of the decisions I made to this point has put me where I am today.”

Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter based in the Philadelphia area who has been writing for PhillyVoice since its inception in 2015 and is the president of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be followed on Twitter here: