By Greg Ostendorf
AUBURN, Ala. – Derrick Brown might be only a sophomore, but when Auburn was looking for a player to represent the football team as part of the SEC Football Leadership Council that met earlier this month, he made for an easy choice.
For starters, Brown enjoys being a part of these types of groups. In high school, he served on the student council and a separate leadership council. This past summer, he was one of five student-athletes from Auburn who took part in a joint meeting between the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and the SEC Student-Athlete Leadership Council.
“I definitely like to talk and have my input on these because I think at the end of the day, the more people you get talking the more stuff you can find out,” Brown said.
The 6-foot-5, 316-pound defensive lineman also grew as a leader on the football field this past season. His freshman year he showed flashes, but he lacked consistency. The message from his position coach Rodney Garner: go out there and do what you’re capable of doing.
“That spoke a lot to me,” Brown said. “That makes me feel that it’s OK to make a mistake. My freshman year when I was out there, I was nervous and didn’t want to make a mistake, and it kind of impaired my game a little bit. It was just completely different this year, and I feel like my play on the field gave me room to be able to speak up about things.”
Brown’s teammates respect him. They will listen when he has something to say. So who better to go to the leadership council meeting and report back to the Auburn coaches and players?
The event kicked off Friday, Feb. 2, in Birmingham where the 14 members of the council, one per team, went to dinner and an outing at Topgolf. Then it was on to meetings Saturday where they met with multiple SEC staff members and touched on a wide range of topics, including NCAA shared governance legislation related to football recruiting, eligibility, playing and practice.
Though SEC commissioner Greg Sankey was not a part of these meetings, it was his idea to form the council and to hear from the student-athletes.
“I think it’s very beneficial,” Brown said. “This the commissioner of the SEC, the conference you play in. He’s having guys up there, and he’s taking in what the guys are saying. He wants to know from his student-athletes how everything is going within his program.
“It just says a lot about Commissioner Sankey and how he runs the business there.”
As Brown heads into his junior year, he’ll be counted on even more as one of the leaders of Auburn’s football team. The coaching staff is always pushing for leaders, for players to step up and take charge, and he’s a prime candidate to take on even more responsibility.
“I feel like I’ve been here now,” Brown said. “I’ll be going into my third year. I think that everything is different. You have the opportunity to speak up about things. You don’t have to be the guy in the back anymore in the sophomore or freshman role.
“If you have the ability to lead, the (coaches) want that to stick out because if somebody older than you is not doing it, then you’ve got to do it.”
Greg Ostendorf is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: