By Ryan Murken
Your Prep Sports
IOWA CITY – Max Brown isn’t your prototypical middle linebacker.
At 5-foot-9 and 185 pounds Brown doesn’t possess typical inside linebacker size.
Even his jersey number, 33, looks like it would belong in the offensive or defensive backfield.
It’s easy for some people to focus on what the undersized Brown doesn’t bring to the middle linebacker spot.
West High head coach Garrett Hartwig can’t help but look at everything Brown does bring to the center of the Trojan defense.
“He’s everything that you want in a football player,” Hartwig said. “He’s a great leader, he shows up and works, he has a great attitude, he only says things that are constructive never destructive and he does his talking with his play. He plays hard and that’s all you can ask.”
Brown might not have typical middle linebacker size but he produces typical middle linebacker results.
The senior captain has more than 100 career tackles and enters Friday’s annual Battle for the Boot matchup against No. 9 City High (2-1) second on the team with 17 tackles for fifth-ranked West High (3-0).
“I hear about my size all the time but when I line up against them and hit them they don’t say anything else after that,” Brown said. “I’m worried about playing not my size.”
His attitude is part of what has made Brown the heart and soul of an improved West High defense.
Brown moved from an immensely undersized lineman in junior high to a slightly undersized linebacker in high school.
Regardless of size Brown just kept making plays.
Midway through his sophomore season he was starting for a West High team that advanced to the Class 4A quarterfinals.
“He’s fearless, that kid is fearless,” Hartwig said. “There are few players that you will ever see in high school that tackle with their eyes wide open and that is Max. He will run through guys, he will run his feet and he has to because of his size.”
Listed at 175-pounds a year ago, Brown made a team-high 68 tackles on a West High defense that allowed 29 points and better than 380 yards per game during a 4-7 season.
Brown spent the offseason packing on 10 pounds of muscle and asserting himself as a leader.
“I think what is really driving this team is senior leadership,” Brown said. “In January Hartwig came up to me and talked to me about what I need to do to this team to get them going and ever since then I’ve really tried to step up my leadership role.”
That work is paying off for Brown and the Trojans this season.
Last year West High allowed an average of 36.3 points and 482 total yards per game during a 0-3 start to the season.
This year the Trojans are holding opponents to 18 points and 339 yards per game during a 3-0 start that has included back-to-back wins over ranked teams.
West High is coming off a 17-10 win over Cedar Falls in which it allowed 178 yards of total offense.
“I’m ecstatic, you wouldn’t have seen those stats last year,” Brown said. “We had probably 300 yards rushing against us every game. To have a game like that against Cedar Falls where we gave up 178 yards is amazing.”
Brown and his teammates will hope to continue that success on Friday against City High and its power running game.
City High rushed for 294 yards last week against Ames and is averaging 222 yards per game on the ground this season.
“It’s a big game for sure, City High vs. West it’s a game you look toward your whole life,” Brown said. “Rankings really don’t mean anything, both teams are going to come out and play their hardest and whoever plays harder is going to win.”