By Pat Turner
It began with his grandfather Bobby Maples, who played for the Houston Oilers, Denver Broncos and Pittsburgh Steelers following a standout career at Baylor. The tradition continued years later at O’Connor where older brothers Brady (UTSA) and Baylen (Texas Tech) made their mark before carrying their skills to college.
During the past four years, Brannon has upheld the family name. Becoming the first freshman to start at O’Connor, the 6-foot-5, 290-pound guard has developed into one of the top linemen in Texas with his size, strength and explosiveness off the ball.
Much of the success was ignited by those who played before him.
Brannon never had the opportunity to meet his grandfather, who died in 1991. However, he
read numerous articles and heard the stories of how Maples shined in the AFL and NFL. That made an impact in his determination to succeed.
Of course, his older brothers provided plenty of inspiration, while also giving valuable pointers on becoming a standout lineman. Brady, now coaching at Wylie, was the Panthers’ assistant offensive line coach during Brannon’s first three years. During that time, Baylen has also given his input.
“I think the family tradition helps,” said Brown, who made a verbal commitment to play football at TCU. “I feel like I have an advantage compared to people who don’t have the older brothers to help you. They’ve given me a lot of advice. Brady really helped me here. He still watches my game film and we’ll have our weekly calls to go over things. He still continues to make me a better player. Baylen has helped me a lot of ways. He’s also helped me prepare for college. Since he played in the Big 12, he’s told me what I can expect.”
Like his brothers, Brown knew he was destined to be a lineman because of his size. Although it may not be the role that draws attention like quarterbacks or running backs, Brannon wouldn’t have it any other way.
After all, helping those toting the football succeed is rewarding every time a big play occurs. And Brown has provided more than his share of opportunities for his teammates.
“My style of play is getting off the ball,” Brown said. “I love being there. I get to hit people every single play. Being able to get on someone, lay them out and make holes so we can score a lot of points is exciting.”
For Brown, being a dependable lineman is an ongoing process. He found that out during his varsity debut.
O’Connor coaches knew of his reputation in middle school where he dominated opponents with ease. They had an idea Brown could do the same at the varsity level and gave him the opportunity immediately.
No doubt the coaches are pleased with the progress.
“Brannon came from a football family,” O’Connor coach David Malesky said. “That helped. He had a lot of size and speed. He had a very good understanding of the game even then. He keeps improving. He’s played in 45 games and now he’s the older guy.”
Still, playing as a freshman had its challenges. The first revelation came in the Panthers’ season opener with local power Reagan.
“It was a load,” Brown said. “Having that on my shoulders and coming from the game speed of middle school football to playing Reagan that first game was different. I remember the first guy I went against was about 6-2, 340. I didn’t have that much muscle yet.
“I think the main thing was letting the guys help me and drive me. My brother (Brady) helped me a lot. We worked really hard during the summer, so I could at least have some idea about the offense during two-a-days.”
Things went much smoother the next week against Alamo Heights. After three games into the season, Brown began finding his groove and even got his first college offer. He hasn’t looked back.
“After that second game I started feeling better,” Brown said. “That brought up my confidence. I’ve worked hard to become better. Coach (Bob) Weeks has taught me a lot. This is an every-day grind. I’ve learned it’s not about you. There are five offensive linemen and you have to make sure you’re working together.”
Brown found his responsibilities change this season. He and junior guard Logan Parr, who started as a freshman a year after Brown, were the two linemen returning. With three newcomers manning the front, the two with experience did whatever they could to make the others feel at ease.
Things have fallen into place quickly as Grant Percy, Jackson Brooks and Jake Medelez have teamed with Brown and Parr to make the offensive line one of O’Connor’s strengths. While owning the top spot in District 28-6A, The Panthers (7-0, 6-0) are shining in the scoring department with the combination of first-year quarterback David Dodd, running backs Zion Taylor and Jordan Maye and wide receivers Chase Locke and Sam Castillo.
“We knew this year was going to be different,” Brown said. “We had three guys who had never played. Coming out in that first game with Steele (21-14 win) Logan and I knew we had to build their confidence.
“I thought back to how I was thinking at that time when I was a freshman and tried to build them up. Coming out there against a top team like Steele was a big task for us. But we worked hard and did what we had to do.”
Now, Brown wants to finish strong. The Panthers are faring well, but to wrap up a district title and then have a successful playoff run, the senior lineman knows more work is needed.
“We still don’t think we’ve played our best game,” Brown said. “Offense, defense, special teams, we have not put a full game together. It’s going to be exciting when we get all three phases together. I think we have a chance to go as deep as possible in the playoffs.”
Whatever happens, being O’Connor’s first freshman starter remains a special accomplishment.