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October 1, 2011

Crunch time turns into Brown time

And so Arthur Brown danced the unlikeliest of jigs.

OK, so it was more of a repetitive vertical finger point mixed with a few knee-bends, but for the impossibly stoic linebacker who usually shows the emotion range of an ice sculpture, the celebration being unleashed on the sideline qualified as a full-blown boogie.

"You call that dancing?" He would say after the game, acting almost as if he was caught doing something illegal. "I was just nodding my head. It was hard to resist."

Whatever it was, every bit of it was deserved. As his teammates mobbed him in the final seconds of Kansas State's 36-35 upset of No. 15 Baylor on Saturday evening, Brown met the line of helmet-pats and high-fives with a smile and some spirit. The stone face had finally cracked as he joined his teammates in a chant to the tune of Tonto's Jump on It.

"Defense, we like to get crunk … defense, we like to get crunk."

The song rang out over and over from the bench as the final ticks vanished from the clock. And standing at the center of swagger soirée was the man with the most elusive smile on the roster. Apparently, all it took to release Arthur Brown's human element was a downright dominant series rarely seen from a defensive player.

The final six minutes saw Brown record an interception that led to a game-winning field goal, a sack that helped seal the game and a third-down tackle that placed a purple bow on K-State's unlikely 4-0 start.

"It was a great thing to build off of for us," Brown said, reverting back to his humble and reserved persona immediately following the win. "I'm just thankful.

"With time comes comfort. Each week I'm getting more comfortable."

When viewed as a whole, his performance against the Bears was what they call "living up to the hype." Taking over a game from quarterback or running back is one thing, but single-handedly playing the roll of a runaway wrecking ball on one of the nation's top quarterback from the linebacker position in crunch time is something else entirely.

"He's not going to like me saying this, but he's easily the best player I've ever played with," cornerback Nigel Malone said. "I haven't been around too many linebackers that can change a game by themselves. His play inspires us."

Brown's lore is quickly becoming inspiring as well. In his first year playing in Manhattan, he leads the Wildcats in tackles and stops for a loss. On Saturday, he was responsible for Robert Griffin's first interception in 171 attempts and ran down the man that CBSSports.com's Bruce Feldman called "the fastest man to ever play quarterback in college football" for a game-winning sack.

Not a bad first four game days on the job.

"That's just Arthur, man," said wide receiver Chris Harper, who has known Brown since middle school. "I knew he was going to have a big year, like I told everybody. He's coming out of his character now, and it's getting even better. I think it's because how close we are as a team. He's starting to show emotion on the field and that's actually helping him, I think."

Harper would know. He found himself on the receiving end of an uncharacteristic bear hug from Brown immediately following the junior's game-changing interception. And as his childhood friend flung him into the air without much effort, the 225-pound Harper focused not on the surprising surge of glee, but on the larger picture being revealed.

"Arthur is getting comfortable now," Harper said. "Him tracking down Robert Griffin isn't a big deal to me. I've seen him run down a guy who can run a 4.3 40, so getting Griffin might seem like a big deal to you, but it's not to me."

If the first four games of Brown's Wildcat career have been, as Harper thinks, an adaptation process of sorts, what's yet to come is anyone's guess. Even Bill Snyder feels his top linebacker's best football is yet to be played, saying Brown hasn't completely learned all of his assignments at this point.

It would seem his comfort level is conversely related to that of the opposing quarterbacks he'll line up against.

"If we could play with 12 guys on defense, we'd be great," Snyder said. "We'd just give (Brown) no assignments and let him run around and make 1,000 tackles, but there's some kind of rule out there that says we can't do that.

"When he knows where he's going and how to get there, he can pull the trigger as quickly as anybody."

For now, call Brown, dominant as he can be, a work in progress. And know that as he learns, his coaches and teammates expect the numbers to swell and the exploits to become even more impressive.

And maybe -- just maybe -- the dancing will become commonplace.

"My energy and my emotion comes from the emotion of my teammates," Brown said. "I don't try to resist it or anything, so we'll just have to see."




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