For college athletes, they have to make every game count, because they never know if they’ll get playing time.
With hopes of going pro, most athletes want to get into division 1 schools, but some things are starting to change, especially for dominant athletes like Paul Browning who go to Colorado State University- Pueblo. Going pro could mean going to CSU-Pueblo.
“No one is going to tell me I can’t make it to the NFL. No one can tell me I can’t do it,” Browning explained. “I just want to be great and I’ll never quit.”
Paul Browning, now moved on with his diploma from CSU-Pueblo, grew up in Colorado Springs and attended Widefield High School in Colorado Springs. Which is also the high school that NFL wide receiver Vincent Jackson attended. Coming from a losing program in high school and only winning one game his senior year, he wasn’t too sure if he’d one day be preparing for the chance at the NFL.
“I didn’t let our record discourage me. Outside of games and practices, I was the only guy in the weight room and I was the only guy running stairs after the game,” Browning said. “Even during the off-season, it was me and my QB out there training, no one else.”
When deciding where he would be going to school, he paid a visit to Pueblo and knew it would be his home for the next few years.
“I took a visit to Pueblo and I loved everything about the program,” Browning said. “CSU-Pueblo football was brand new. I just felt like I could take advantage of the opportunities that Pueblo had to offer, so I took a chance.”
Browning’s next step was to make the team and that’s exactly what he did. He was redshirted for the 2010 season and earned his way on to the team for the 2011 season. This was his redshirt-freshmen year and it was also his breakout year. He started in all 11 games during the season and snagged a pass in every game. From here, his game would just get better, solidifying his role as a starter.
But it was his 2012 season where he really came into his own and started to capitalize on the open field play. He would more than double his reception yards from the year before, while only catching four more balls than the year before. He was maximizing his productivity.
Then, Browning completely broke out of his shell for the 2013 season, leading his team with 59 receptions. He averaged 96 yards a game, ending the season with 1,155 yards and 11 touchdowns. These numbers look great on his profile, but this season was missing the key ingredient to getting noticed. A Division II National Championship.
After an undefeated regular season, their playoff run would be cut short after a loss to Grand Valley in the second round.
“It felt amazing being a big piece of the offense in 2013,” Browning described. “But we didn’t make it to the last game.”
In 2014, the CSU-Pueblo Thunderwolves football team would go on to win a Division II National Championship, but the playoff process meant a lot more to Browning than it might have for the rest of the team.
Early on in the 2014 season, Browning suffered a torn meniscus during the Sam Houston State game but went on to finish the game with 96 yards and a touchdown. He didn’t realize how severe his injury was and had to have surgery done, leaving him on the bench for four weeks and missing four games. That was four weeks of no practicing and having to watch his team from the sideline.
“This was my senior year. It was supposed to be my year,” Browning exclaimed. “I needed to play all the games that I could.”
He was eager to come back after the injury, but that wouldn’t be the end of his worries. An apprehensive Browning would go on to play a solid game against Chadron State, not knowing what was to come next.
In the next game against Colorado Mines, he would suffer yet another injury. A sprain in that game left Browning out for another four games. That meant, from there on, he could only play in as many games as his team could win in the playoffs.
“Being out and watching my team play really refocused me,” Browning said. “I’m glad my team did well, but it’s crazy how you start to see everything differently when you have something you love taken away from you.”
If Browning’s team couldn’t advance through the playoffs to the national championship, then he would’ve only had about 300 yards for the season and 2 touchdowns. Instead, he was able to play four more games, including the national championship game.
“Going in to the playoffs was crazy, because everything was on the line for me,” Browning pointed out. “It was do or die. We had to play our very best or that was it.”
As Browning returned, the team continued to play great, both on offense and defense. This time around, Browning was coming in with a new perspective on the game. He had to play harder than ever and he had to make every move count if he wanted a chance to go pro.
“My injuries were huge setbacks,” Browning said. “I didn’t have much time, so being able to come back and help my team win a national championship was a blessing.”
Through all the craziness of an uncertain future, he was able to end the season with 636 yards receiving and 6 touchdowns. Browning’s final touchdown catch would end up being the only touchdown scored in the national championship game against Minnesota State- Mankato. It was a story book ending for Paul Browning.
After having a great college football career, things are looking a little brighter for Browning. There was a time Browning was leaving high school unsure of what was to come and now he could very likely be an NFL prospect.
Browning has moved up to Denver, Colorado, training for his chance to make it into the NFL. He will continue to try to elevate his game for the next couple of months at the Steadman Hawkins Clinic, until Pro Day in March. His trainers include Augustine Agyei, who is a former CSU-Pueblo football player; Loren Landow, who is a sports performance trainer that has worked with major NFL players, and Brandon Stokley, who is an ex-NFL player that played with the Denver Broncos as a wide receiver.
“My biggest worry right now is not knowing. You put all of your effort into this and you’re not sure what’s going to happen,” Browning explained. “I’m going to put every last part of me into this, because if I can get a chance in the NFL, I know I can prove myself.”