By JOEL COLEMAN
As a freshman at Mississippi State in 2012, Ryan Brown wanted to move off campus. There was one condition. To do so, he had to live with teammate Nick James.
“I was really mad because I wanted to room with who I wanted to room with,” Brown recalled. “They said you can’t move off campus unless you move in with Nick James.”
Just like that, the two defensive linemen were roommates. They were far from like-minded however. James was a little rough around the edges. Brown was the eternal optimist, rooted by his faith and upbringing.
“Coming from New Orleans, there’s a lot of negativity,” Brown said. “If you’re not positive, you’re not going to make it out. I just kind of keep that positive attitude.”
Brown made it a point to share his good vibes with James. Under the same roof, sharing the same space, slowly but surely, Brown began to see a difference in his fellow Bulldog.
“He came to church with me one time and I could see a little change,” Brown remembered. “It was a long time coming. He told me it was going to happen.”
James is forever grateful to Brown for his influence.
“Ryan basically woke me up and just kind of guided me every morning,” James said. “That was such a good blessing in my life. I looked up to Ryan. He’s just a good, holy, spirited guy.”
James is just one of many beneficiaries of the uplifting spirit Brown likes to share. Always finding the sunshine on the cloudiest of days, Brown has been picking up his MSU brothers since he first arrived in Starkville.
“I like people around me to be positive too,” Brown said. “If not, I need to overwhelm them with positive. I remember when I first came (to Mississippi State), we had a conditioning test and had to run like 35 gassers. Everybody (was complaining). I was just like ‘We can do this. No man can conquer you.’ They were all like ‘Man, I’m getting tired of you with this positive attitude.’ That’s what I do though you know. It’s how I live my life.”
It’s not that Brown is immune to negative circumstances. In recent days, the senior’s playing career with the Bulldogs abruptly concluded short of MSU’s appearance in the Belk Bowl on Dec. 30.
Brown had been battling pain in his right foot for weeks. With a potential NFL career at stake, it was decided best to go ahead and get the issue taken care of.
“He had a stress fracture in his foot,” Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen said. “That’s something that he’d been dealing with for most of the season really and it really limited his practice time for the back half of the season. Just for his future, the best thing to do is just do the surgery and put a screw in his foot and he’ll be out now for the bowl game.”
Suddenly, the doctor of positivity needed a dose of his own medicine.
“When I first heard the news, it was emotional,” Brown said. “I got in my car and told my mom and we shared an emotional moment right there, but she told me to just look back on the things I did.”
Brown had plenty to reflect on. He totaled 106 tackles for his career, including 18.5 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks. Earlier this season, he won the Southeastern Conference’s Defensive Lineman of the Week award after totaling seven tackles and 3.5 tackles for loss against Troy.
Though he won’t get to participate due to his injury, Brown’s 2015 season earned him a spot in the upcoming East-West Shrine Game.
With all that, you won’t find Brown whining about his current situation.
“I wouldn’t do anything different,” Brown said. “I couldn’t do anything different. It’s just football. It’s just adversity.”
Brown’s struggle actually helped him empathize with a pair of his teammates. Senior defensive backs Will Redmond and Kendrick Market each saw their seasons and MSU careers cut short earlier this year with anterior cruciate ligament tears.
“When I first heard I couldn’t play (in the bowl game), I thought about those two guys,” Brown said. “At least I played those 12 games and those two guys missed most of their senior season so I know how they felt each and every game and I only have to go through it for one. I got all the big games out of the way.”
With no more college football to play, Brown turns his attention to getting healthy with an eye on the NFL Draft. He says he’ll be back up and running around the time MSU has its pro day in the spring. Brown doesn’t know for sure what the future holds, but you better believe he’s optimistic about it.
“Everything’s in God’s hands,” Brown said. “I’m just going to continue to work hard and just do my thing.”
Brown’s old roommate is convinced everything is going to work out just fine.
“I know what, he’s going to be successful in life, hands down,” James said.