Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Dru Brown wins Ottawa debut before enduring Father’s Day without dad

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Dru Brown has experienced some significant “firsts” over the last few days.

Highs he worked hard towards and patiently waited years for to arrive.

And a low he wishes had never come.

Less than 72 hours after winning his first game as a full-fledged starting professional quarterback — in his regular season debut as an Ottawa Redblack at TD Place Stadium against his first pro team — the 27-year old Brown faced one of life’s more heart-wrenching moments.

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The first Father’s Day since his dad, Dave, passed away suddenly and unexpectedly last summer.

“I think it’s good to air it out because there’s people out there (dealing with the same thing), right,” Brown said after Sunday’s practice. “You know, it’s the first one. In talking with people that have kind of been through it, and the guys that helped me get through it, they were just like, ‘hey, the next year … the firsts, are tough’. The first of, whether it’s career, whatever, family, kids, you know that you envision them being around. But, he’s not. And that’s alright. But it gives you perspective on who you do have.

“I’ve got a great mom, who came and visited and watched the game (on Friday). I’ve got two amazing sisters. I’ve got an aunt and uncle that are extremely caring and loving towards me and my wife. I’ve got great in-laws.

“I try to use it as perspective, to be grateful for people that I got.”

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At the same time, by the look on his face and the sound of his voice, it was clear how much he obviously misses his dad.

Dave Brown, a former quarterback who switched to the linebacker position in college, encouraged his son to be a football player.

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He was Dru’s biggest fan every step of the way, from high school to community college to Division 1 and finally to the CFL.

Sadly, Dave died in July, meaning he was not occupying a stadium seat for his boy’s first two starts as a pro with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers a month later, or Thursday’s 23-19 triumph over those same Blue Bombers in his new uniform.

He may not have had a ticket, but Dru, a religious man, knows his pop was watching.

“I always feel like that … I can almost hear him,” Brown said with a smile as his voice cracked. “He was a big … he was really good … he was a really good teacher. Really, really good mentor. He told me so many things over and over and over that I can verbatim say some of those things.

“Now I hear myself saying to whoever, ah, that’s why he did it. You know? It’s good.”

Dru Brown wasn’t out-of-this world great against the Bombers, but he was good.

He was better than Zach Collaros, the guy he backed up in Winnipeg for the last two seasons.

The 35-year-old Collaros — a three-time Grey Cup winner who was the MVP in one of those championship games and also twice named the CFL’s most outstanding player — was minimized by the Redblacks defence as Winnipeg dropped to a rather surprising 0-2.

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He completed just 15-of-31 passes for 285 yards, with no touchdown throws and two interceptions.

Brown was good on 20-of-33 passes for 238 yards while tossing a TD pass and no picks.

“I thought there were a lot of good things and also a lot of things that we can clean up, which is always encouraging,” said Brown. “You know, when you beat a good team and there’s still room for growth.”

Specifically?

“Like finishing drives,” said Brown, whose team had to settle for Lewis Ward field goals of 12, 31 and 34 yards. “That comes down to better decisions, at that time, by me. Just overall, maybe more disciplined, you know, in decision makings within that. As a unit, we’ve got to get the ball in the end zone. You want to score touchdowns, not field goals. Typically when you do that, you can put a team away.”

Meanwhile, watching the game film the next day only confirmed to coach Bob Dyce what he saw from the sidelines.

“Dru played the game we needed him to play,” said Dyce. “We didn’t turn over the ball. He made the throws that he needed to make and he made them in crucial situations. The ball was spread out well amongst the offensive players, and he led the offence very, very well.

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“Everyone was talking about playing his old team and things like that, and it didn’t faze him. He was out there to do a job and he was of one mind. He was going to take care of his business. So I was happy to see him do that, but I wasn’t surprised.”

While Brown noted the victory was good for overall morale — that when players see how consistent preparation all week presents itself on the field in a game should give the team confidence and a desire to continue on the same path — he took no greater satisfaction in defeating an opponent that let him go while continuing to put its faith in Collaros.

“It feels good to win,” said Brown. “I think the more important thing was starting the year that way, regardless of who we’re playing, and to continue to prioritize how we have to be process driven. You obviously have to go compete and play and compete your ass off to be physical in those things. But the mental preparation … you should roll into a game and believe that you can win every single week, and I think that when you have a game like that, especially one that was kind of battle tested, it gives the guys a lot of confidence in one another.

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“You really don’t know what type of guys you’ve got until you’re kind of in the furnace and see how people react. So it’s good to see that we don’t shy away from that.”

Does the win show doubters that the Redblacks made the right decision when they decided to bank on Brown?

Not by itself, of course.

But it does suggest that he may be able to lead them in the right direction.

Does Brown care what people outside the organization think of him either way?

“Not really,” he said. “You’ve got to be present, and that means focused on what you got to do. It’s hard maybe, for people to grasp that, but when you’re playing your best is when you’re truly concerned about what you’re doing in that moment, and what’s needed or what’s asked of you in that moment.

“You can’t control what people are saying about you, can’t control if they’re going to like you or not. So I don’t really care. I just want my teammates to believe in me and trust me. That’s kind of at the forefront of my mind, as well the actual football standpoint, the mental, my reads and protections and all those things.”

Sounds like something Dave Brown might have told his son.

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Over and over and over.

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GOING DEEP

The Redblacks have signed American DB Tavarius McFadden, who spent the past two seasons with the Argos … More and more good news for the Redblacks on the subject of quarterbacks. Tyrie Adams, who suffered a season ending knee injury in his impressive debut last year, is back practising with the club and will dress as one of the backups in Montreal on Thursday. To make room for his spot on the roster Ottawa has released QB Jake Dunniway … Dyce alleviated any concern about still-injured QB Jeremiah Masoli, who reportedly collapsed while on the sidelines during Thursday’s game. “You guys know I’m no medical practitioner,” Dyce told reporters, “but from my understanding, just a matter of not eating early in the morning, and he had a little incident but he was fine right after that. I saw him before halftime, I talked to him in the tunnel at halftime, he was talking to me, and (the QBs) were talking about adjustments and things like that, so he was fine. It was just a minor … I can’t even call it a setback … it was a minor incident, but he’s more than fine.” … Dyce also said the injury to LB Jovon Santos-Knox is not serious . “I think he’s going to be fine,” said Dyce. “We came out (injury-wise) from the game pretty well.” … Returning from the one-game injured list are LBs Davion Taylor and Silas Stewart, WRs Keaton Bruggeling and WR Khalil Pimpleton, DL Deshawn Stevens, OL Jacob Ruby, as well as DB Justin Howell. DBs Winston Rose and Bennett Williams, as well as defensive lineman T.J. Rayam are headed to the practice roster.

dbrennan@postmedia.com

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