Itayvion “Tank” Brown's options came with options.
A senior athlete for the Lutheran North football team, Brown can play any number of positions. At 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds with a 40-yard dash time of 4.83 seconds, he's a big and strong with long arms and plenty of speed. He's a tantalizing college prospect, one that inspired different visions of his future from nearly every school that recruited him.
“None of the schools saw him the same. Some saw him as a linebacker, some same him as a (defensive end), some some him as a tight end,” Lutheran North coach Carl Reed said. “He's the total package athletically. There's nothing he can't do on the football field.”
Brown landed offers from Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, LSU, Michigan State, Purdue, TCU, Texas A&M and more. He's No. 5 on the Post-Dispatch Super 30 countdown of the top high school senior prospects.
Brown, 18, developed his expansive tool kit playing youth football. No matter which position he was asked to man by his coaches he picked it up quickly and made an impact. He was all over the place on both sides of the ball. The only place he didn't land was on the offensive line. Otherwise everything else was fair game.
“Growing up my coaches would always move me around so I never got too comfortable at one spot. I did get comfortable with wide receiver. I don't know why, I just did,” Brown said. “On defense I was playing corner, safety. I was always moving on the field. I'm an athlete, I was just playing my role.”
What that role looks like at Lutheran North could change depending on the week. The Crusaders have a wealth of talent on their defense and Brown's ability to move around only makes it that much stronger.
“You mainly put him where you're weakest at and you need him the most,” Reed said. “You try to fit the other guys where they can go and you put him at your biggest area of need.”
Brown had 91 tackles, eight sacks and one interception at linebacker last season. This season the Crusaders will add Missouri recruit and highly rated linebacker Antonio Doyle to the mix after he transferred from Hazelwood West last fall. The defensive line lost D'Vion Harris and his 125 tackles and eight sacks to graduation but junior defensive end and five-star prospect Travion Ford transferred in from Lutheran St. Charles in the winter.
Brown said he'll play wherever the Crusaders need him. He and his teammates, new ones included, are all on the same page.
“They're all my brothers. From the time we started the offseason to now, fitting in is not a problem,” Brown said. “I'm comfortable with them.”
Brown was one of several defensive monsters the Crusaders trotted out last season. But his single biggest contribution might have come on the offensive end. Lutheran North has slugged its way to consecutive Class 2 state semifinal appearances largely on the back of its defense and the old-school rushing attack of its Wing-T offense. The few times the Crusaders went to the air their first look was at Brown. As a team Lutheran North completed 40 passes for 729 yards and 10 touchdowns. Brown accounted for nearly half of those numbers as he hauled in 17 receptions for 308 yards and scored four times.
Had Brown been adamant about playing receiver at the next level he had that option.
“All the positions that the colleges recruited me for are outside linebacker, wide receiver or athlete. I'm fine with all three,” Brown said. “I just want to play. I love the game so much I just want to play. I'm satisfied with whatever position they find as the best fit for me. I know I'm going to do my best to fulfill that spot.”
Brown's future position appears to be at linebacker. He verbally committed to Minnesota in June and that's the vision the Golden Gophers have for him – at least at the moment. Brown said Minnesota really broke through by making him feel wanted and his family feel welcome. Family is everything to Brown.
“At the end of the day it's me at school and not my family but they're still with me. It's about them as well,” he said. “It was hard but throughout all the schools I had it was those few that were showing their faces every day, calling my phone, texting me, telling me about their program. Making me feel like they want me.”
The Golden Gophers did just that so Brown's attention has been fully invested on helping Lutheran North take the next step in the playoffs. The Crusaders lost to the eventual state champion the last two seasons. Brown said Lutheran North hurt itself in critical situations by not sticking together. He wants that to change this time around.
“The returning players we all came in with the mindset to create a closer bond with each other,” Brown said. “We were focused on being closer together. When you're close you know each others strengths and weaknesses. We know we can play football, we don't know if we can play together.”
2019-20 Post-Dispatch preseason Super 30 countdown