Gateway’s Tui Brown looks ahead to career at UConn

Friday, January 31, 2020 | 5:14 PM

Gateway’s Tui Brown did not always know where he would end up going to college to further his football career and education.

After several official visits and receiving offers from around 15 schools, Brown announced his commitment to Connecticut via twitter Jan. 27.

An undeniable presence on both sides of the ball as a tight end and linebacker, Brown was an important piece to the Gators’ WPIAL championship run last season.

Air Force, Buffalo and Navy, among other FBS programs and several FCS schools were on Brown’s offer list, but his decision came down to Ball State and UConn.

It was a tough choice, according to Brown, because he went to both schools for an official visit a week before his decision.

“It was the last day (of my UConn visit), I went to breakfast with (coaches and family) and I came to the realization that I wanted to go to (UConn),” he said.

“I like the university better, it’s a nice campus, better academics and I like the coaches, too.”

Brown was a physical force on offense and defense with a 6-foot-3, 215-pound frame. As a tight end, he led the Gators in receptions with 45 for 587 yards and nine touchdowns.

He also left a mark on opposing offenses last season with an interception, fumble recovery and three sacks with 45 total tackles as linebacker, the position UConn coaches recruited him to play.

Coach Randy Edsall has been at the helm of the UConn football for 15 seasons during two stints (1999-2010, 2017-present). The team was 2-10 overall last year with a winless conference record in the AAC, but will independent in football starting next season.

Defensive coordinator Lou Spanos, a Keystone Oaks graduate, has been coaching on a college or professional level for the past 27 years, including stints in the NFL as a linebackers coach for the Redskins, Steelers and Titans.

Spanos gave Brown a taste of what football is like on a professional level.

“It was just me and (Coach Spanos) in the film room on a Saturday watching tapes of NFL drills, his coaching and players that he has coached,” Brown said. “I could see myself in that position.”

Brown’s coach for the past four seasons at Gateway, Don Holl, helped promote his talents to schools across the country and believes it was his film that attracted coaches.

Holl said he knew for a while that his standout two-way player was leaning toward UConn and that the feeling was mutual from Edsall and Spanos.

The flexibility of Brown as a player is why Holl thinks UConn is a great fit for the future Division I athlete and vice versa.

“Brown has versatility,” Holl said. “He can do a lot of things like being an edge-rush guy, an inside or outside linebacker. I think it’s a little bit of a trend to have versatile players on the team that can do a number of things in a spread offense.”

Brown is lone Gator to commit to a Division I school in the class of 2020 so far, but Holl expects a couple of his players to commit to FCS schools.

Holl is pleased to see players come through his program and accomplish their dreams.

“When young student-athletes can commit to a goal and work really hard to get there and have a opportunity like Tui has, it is really satisfying,” he said.

“They become like sons to you, and that’s like to watch one of your kids achieve a goal that could really set him up for the next 40 years beyond college.”

Brown is not just focused on succeeding at a new level of football, but on academics as well, setting goals for his grades.

“I want to be a student-athlete, so it’s important that have at least a 3.0 GPA (hopefully over),” he said. “On the field, I just want to take every opportunity and turn into something good for myself.”

Robert Scott III is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.


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