Dwyer's Malik Brown uses personal trainer to transform body, scholarship prospects
Friday, February 01, 2013
by Matt Porter
Malik Brown's dedication to training has led to a wider variety of college choices -- and more headaches. (Photo by Matt Porter)
This small warehouse, stuffed with workout machines and pounding music, is about the only place Malik Brown can’t hear the phone ring.
All he can hear is his trainer.
“All athlete!” Lou Raffaele shouts, punctuating Brown’s repetitions. “That’s it, baby. Starting all over next year. Get one first impression.”
Brown, a defensive end at Dwyer High, has made a big impression on college coaches after he reshaped his body. He spends a half-hour every day at Peak Performance on Burns Road in Palm Beach Gardens. Since football season ended in November, he has packed 30 pounds onto his 6-foot-3, 251-pound frame and seen a dramatic increase in interest from big-time college recruiters.
As Brown works out, Raffaele paces the room, affirming Brown is building a body made of “steel and cement.”
“We don’t want wood,” he’ll say. “We want it hurricane-proof.”
Brown likes that line. He wants to have the same impact as Dwyer alums Curt Maggitt and Matt Elam, who also trained at Peak Performance. Maggitt put on 34 pounds in his senior year, signed with Tennessee, and became an All-SEC freshman linebacker. Elam played 13 games as a freshman at Florida and after an All-American junior season in 2012, entered the NFL draft and is considered one of the top safety prospects.
Brown’s dedication to training has led to a wider variety of college choices — and more headaches.
Before Brown’s senior season, only South Florida had offered him a scholarship. In December and January, schools such as Tennessee, North Carolina State, Minnesota, Mississippi State, Cincinnati and Purdue were knocking on his door and calling constantly. One time, he answered the phone at 1 a.m.
He felt most comfortable with Syracuse, which is why he committed to play there in December. Since then, other schools have given him plenty to think about. In a dizzying recruiting process, Brown’s workouts are one of the things he relies on to keep him focused.
After Wednesday’s after-school workout, he returned to Dwyer, where four coaches from North Carolina State were waiting for him. Their immediate goal: get Brown to visit campus this weekend, the last before next Wednesday's national signing day. To pass the time, they watched dozens of underclassmen lift and run, spilling from the open doors of the weight room to the walkway behind Blum Stadium.
Brown’s football-specific personal training, like the work Wellington-based Athletes Advantage did with American Heritage running back Greg Bryant and Glades Day’s Kelvin Taylor, could earn him early playing time. It’s not the only path to a scholarship, though. Schools consistently sign less-developed athletes whom they feel have room to grow.
“We have to be very smart about what we feel a kid’s ceiling will be,” says Arkansas defensive line coach Charlie Partridge, who scouted players at Dwyer on Wednesday.
“There may be a young man who is further developed, who plays better, because maybe he’s been better coached, maybe he trains better. Then you have another kid over here who wasn’t afforded those opportunities.
“We’re not living in a black-and-white world. You’re looking at width of shoulders, width of hips, his intelligence. Very subjective things.”
Brown didn’t want to leave any gray area. He knew that the 46 tackles, 14 for a loss, and 17 sacks he had as a senior wouldn’t be enough to land a big-time scholarship. He’s thankful his father, Mark, paid for his personal training.
“I’m pretty sure if I looked the same way as I did when the season ended, I’m pretty sure N.C. State or Tennessee wouldn’t be here,” he said.
Brown doesn’t want to disappoint those who have shown interest — though he recognizes coaches are excellent salesmen. After meeting with North Carolina State coaches, he later decided he would visit Tennessee this weekend. He’ll have Tennessee, Syracuse and USF hats in front of him on signing day.
“This process is very bittersweet,” he said. “The sweet part about it is, you’re blessed to have it, to have options, to have college paid for. But it’s bitter because you don’t know where to go. Every college sounds good.”