BLACKSBURG — Virginia Tech commit Jason Brown can hardly believe it.
The South Carolina transfer verbally committed to the Hokies via social media on Thursday night as part of a coordinated reveal along with Marshall transfer quarterback Grant Wells, who also verbally committed to the school.
That moment was the culmination of a five-year journey for Brown of trying to land a scholarship offer from the place he calls his “dream school.” Brown received the offer a week ago from new Tech coach Brent Pry, but he still has a hard time describing what it meant to get that call.
“The emotions were everywhere,” Brown said, during a phone interview on Thursday night. “When you are growing up watching football, you always have that one school that you’ve always wanted to go to. When they offered, it was an unreal feeling.”
The expectation is that Brown and Wells will get a chance to compete for the starting job.
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According to Brown, Pry and quarterbacks coach Brad Glenn stressed the importance of generating competition in what was a depleted quarterback room. Both quarterbacks plan on enrolling this month and participating in spring camp.
“As soon as I’ve done my applications and whenever I get accepted and get classes, I’ll be there,” Brown said.
Brown’s winding road to Blacksburg started at Chancellor High School as a member of the 2017 recruiting class. He set a variety of records for the Chargers while putting up 6,000-plus yards and more than 70 touchdowns during his career.
He pokes fun at himself for how many camps at Virginia Tech he attended during that time in hopes of landing a coveted scholarship offer.
Tech’s staff focused its efforts elsewhere — the Hokies ended up signing Hendon Hooker and JUCO transfer A.J. Bush that year — but Brown got an intriguing offer from defensive coordinator Bud Foster late in the process.
“He said they weren’t taking any more quarterbacks for the class, but he said I was a good athlete and wanted to see me and work out as a linebacker and tight end,” Brown said. “That’s where I always wanted to be, I had no offers at the time. I worked out as a linebacker and he offered me a preferred walk-on spot and I was going to go there and try to earn a scholarship there.”
Brown’s plans changed when St. Francis offered him a scholarship to play quarterback. It was still a tough decision, but Brown believed in his heart that he “could play quarterback at the next level.”
He proved that during his three-year stint at St. Francis, an FCS school in Loretto, Pennsylvania. He set multiple school records after landing the starting role as a redshirt sophomore. He earned honorable mention All-American honors after throwing for 3,084 yards and 28 touchdowns.
Brown would likely have closed out his career at the school if not for the COVID-19 pandemic that forced St. Francis to cancel the 2020 season. The quarterback opted to transfer in hopes of competing for a job at the FBS level.
He knew Tech was in the market or a quarterback after Quincy Patterson and Hendon Hooker transferred, and the first thing he did was reach out to the team’s coaching staff and then offensive coordinator Brad Cornelsen.
Tech did extend a preferred walk-on offer to Brown after signing Connor Blumrick, but Brown got the sense that the staff wasn’t all that interested in signing him. Brown would still have considered accepting it if South Carolina hadn’t come along with a scholarship offer to play quarterback.
“It’s scary being in the portal because you don’t know where you are going to end up,” Brown said. “I was blessed enough to be able to go and play for an SEC school, which is something I definitely didn’t think would happen.”
Brown ended up in the starting lineup down the stretch and helped the team clinch a bowl berth under first-year coach Shane Beamer. His first start came against Florida as a 20-point underdog. Brown had South Carolina up 30-10 by halftime with five first half scoring drives en route to a 40-17 win.
He finished the game with 175 yards (14 of 24 passing) and two touchdowns.
Two weeks later he threw for three touchdowns to lead South Carolina to a 21-17 win over Auburn.
“I was the third-team guy, nobody was expecting me to do well other than people on the team and myself,” Brown said. “I didn’t feel any pressure. It was just kind of like a regular week. I just went into it, nobody thinks I’m going to do well, so there’s no need to put unneeded pressure on myself.”
Brown’s brief, but memorable stint with the Gamecocks ended a couple days after the team landed a verbal commit from former Oklahoma starter Spencer Rattler.
He entered the portal as a grad transfer and since he still couldn’t get Enter Sandman out of his head, he reached out to the Hokies one last time.
This time he called Tech coach Brent Pry, who he had met during high school when Pry was a frequent visitor at the school recruiting Brown’s teammate Yetur Gross-Matos, a defensive end that was one of the top recruits in Virginia at the time.
“I told him if you need a QB, ‘let’s do this thing.’” Brown said, with a laugh.
Brown thought Pry might not be interested as the days passed without hearing from him. He started hearing from other teams, but cut that communication off when Pry called him back and told him there was mutual interest.
“He didn’t guarantee me to play or anything cause there’s competition wherever you go,” Brown said. “He said we need some depth and he thinks I can be a guy that can come in and create some competition in the room.”
Brown said he “committed on the spot” once Pry offered.
“Virginia Tech is where I always wanted to be,” Brown said.