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Notre Dame Football

Sun Bowl Win Would Mean The World to Notre Dame S DJ Brown

December 25, 2023

On Friday, Notre Dame safety DJ Brown will play in game No. 59 for the blue and gold. 

The Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl will also be his final collegiate game for Brown, who has totaled 150 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, eight PBUs, and four interceptions in his six seasons with the Irish. 

As you can imagine, Brown will be soaking in each moment in El Paso this week as he closes the Notre Dame chapter of his life. 

“I would say it's bittersweet,” stated Brown. “Every day, I'm trying to focus on what I can do today to get better and be there for my team. But then also, just enjoying the moments, enjoying my teammates, enjoying the locker room. So a little bit of both.

“For me, I'm just excited to play another game. Honestly, it's a great opportunity and Oregon State is going to come here and try to beat us. I'm excited for that.”

Notre Dame arrived in El Paso on Sunday and while being off campus preparing for a game is change, the most significant difference for Brown will be the fact he’ll be a captain for the Irish. 

“When you come here, this is what you work for,” explained Brown. “When I was a freshman, I still remember guys that were captains. Those guys have had a lasting impact on me, so I'm trying to do the same for freshmen and underclassmen.”

The Sun Bowl will also be an opportunity for Notre Dame fans to see the future as freshmen Adon Shuler and Ben Minich are expected to share time with Brown and All-American Xavier Watts at the safety positions. 

Brown has seen the two freshmen impress during bowl prep and walk-on Luke Talich improve during the fall. 

“Every week, they get better and better,” stated Brown. “So even with added reps, like practice reps, spring ball, they're going to keep seeing things and get better and better. I think they're all really smart kids, which helps a lot. I've seen their growth increase a lot just because they're smart.

“Once they see one thing, that same route is not going to beat them a second time. So, just the way they're smart and they're able to adapt. I think the more they get reps, I think will help them out a lot. I'm excited to see them work next year.”

Shuler has appeared in four games (31 snaps) and Minich has one game (2 snaps) under his belt, so there will be inexperience on the field at times, but they’ve been challenged in the last few weeks as safeties coach Chris O”Leary asked his veterans not to help the freshmen in practice. 

“I'll be on the sideline and them two will be out there,” Brown said. “I'll want to say something. (O’Leary will be) like, 'Don't cheat, DJ. Let them do what they do.’ I mean, it's been cool watching them, honestly.”

Brown was also in a similar situation as both freshmen as he only played in one game as a freshman in 2018. 

And yes, Brown knows what it’s like to be frustrated with a lack of playing time, but he also showed patience and stuck it out. The Annapolis native knows it’s easy to enter the Transfer Portal to look for greener pastures, yet he would give some caution to those who ask him about leaving Notre Dame. 

“This place can give you a lot,” explained Brown. “Not only just because of the degree but like, even if you want to play in the NFL, we play on NBC every week. We play some of the toughest teams in the country. We don't have a conference, so every year, we're playing a big out-of-conference opponent because of that, we're on the biggest stage. If you want to go to the NFL or whatever it is, you could do that here. You don't have to go transfer somewhere else to do that. 

“I've seen plenty of NFL players come through here and be successful on Sundays. This place can give you a lot and if you have any type of opportunity. I can understand guys if they feel like they have no opportunity to play here, but if you have any opportunity, I say stick it out. Coach Freeman always talks about delayed gratification. You're not going to get what you want right now, but the longer you work, the harder you work, it will come eventually.”

As for his time at Notre Dame, Brown has experienced many ups and downs while becoming a man. 

Brown doesn’t regret his decision in the last and that’s why going out with a win on Friday means a great deal to him. 

“It would mean the world, honestly,” said Brown. “To finish this thing out with a win would kind of just solidify the six years that I've been here. Just looking back on it, we've only won two bowl games. I think it's like since 1990, Notre Dame hasn't won two bowl games in a row. So, just finishing that and instilling some type of legacy would be awesome.”

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