Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Two Ravens have little in common but a lot of upside

TAMPA — Alonso teammates Gary Brown and Ish Witter used Twitter to announce their commitments to Division I football programs last week within two days of each other.

Brown, a 6-foot-3, 290-pound offensive lineman, is headed to Georgia Tech, choosing the Yellow Jackets from the 17 offers he received. Witter, an eye-catching running back who has already rushed for 480 yards in 2013, chose Missouri — sight unseen, despite taking unofficial visits elsewhere.

Both Ravens have trouble putting into words their excitement about playing football on Saturdays next fall. But the similarities between them stop there.

For Witter, college football is simply the next step in a journey he began long ago. Brown is grateful to be in a place he never dreamed he'd be just three years ago.

"(Witter has) been almost born for this. Gary is the total opposite," coach Brian Emanuel said. "We really had to pull him along and baby him and get him bought in."

A plan progresses

Witter was in class one February afternoon when Emanuel called him into his classroom to take a phone call. A coach from Rutgers was on the other end, ready to make Witter his first offer.

"I couldn't stop thinking about it all day," he recalled.

Since then, the 5-foot-8, 195-pound running back received 14 others. He made trips to Rutgers and Syracuse and enjoyed his time at both places. Throughout the process, however, Witter was impressed by the Missouri staff's attentiveness. Witter said he received mail from Mizzou every day and spoke with coaches on a regular basis.

The Tigers' loyalty — along with the allure of playing in the SEC — was reason enough for Witter to call Columbia his future home.

Witter is averaging almost 7 yards per carry and scored three touchdowns in the Ravens' 56-14 win against Spoto last week. He's only halfway through his senior season, but he's already thinking about the future.

"It's the biggest dream, to make it to the NFL," Witter said. "You've got to get through college to make it to the NFL."

A late start

Three years ago, Emanuel saw a 6-2, 300-pound freshman walking the halls at Alonso. That kid, Emanuel thought to himself, must play football.

He and his staff tried to recruit Brown, to no avail.

"He was all about drawing anime and watching cartoons," Emanuel said. "He didn't want any part of it."

Brown had a short stint with the Tampa Bay Youth Football League but quickly quit after discovering the other kids were bigger than him. As a large high school freshman, Alonso coaches assured him that was no longer going to be an issue.

"All the football coaches kept bothering me about it," Brown said. "So when my sister left (high school) I was like, 'I'm not going to have anything else to do so I might as well play football.' "

Now Brown, who had never lifted a weight before joining the Alonso football team his sophomore year, holds the Ravens' dead-lift record at 605 pounds. Brown, relatively new to the game of football, doesn't speak of professional dreams. In fact, it was Georgia Tech's entrepreneurship program, something Brown hopes to take up one day, that helped him choose the school.

"He's not a football lifer," Emanuel said. "He doesn't know who Derek Jeter is. He's not a sports guy. But he likes playing football and being able to take his aggression out."

Two players, one future

Standing outside of their team's study hall on a Tuesday afternoon, Witter and Brown enjoy the camaraderie forged after having gone through the recruiting process together. During the past six months, Brown said, the two talked about their offers, shared stories from unofficial visits.

Their paths might have been different, but they led to the same place. It's a destination, Emanuel said, both Ravens appreciate equally.

"They understand that this is a great opportunity to get a free education, and that means something to them," he said. "They're both 'yes sir, no sir' guys and will never be a problem for the university. I think that will bode well for them."

Kelly Parsons can be reached at or on Twitter @_kellyparsons.

Two Ravens have little in common but a lot of upside 10/02/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 2, 2013 11:46pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Joe Maddon gets warm reception in return to the Trop

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The night was arranged to honor former Rays manager Joe Maddon in his first visit back to the Trop, and the standing ovation from the bipartisan crowd and scoreboard video tribute seemed proper acknowledgments of his hefty role in the Rays' success during his nine-year stint.

    Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon (70) talks with reporters during a press conference before the start of the game between the Chicago Cubs and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017.
  2. Rays vs. Cubs, 7:10 p.m. Wednesday, Tropicana Field

    The Heater

    Tonight: vs. Cubs

    7:10, Tropicana Field

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM; 680-AM (Spanish)

    Tampa Bay Rays' Blake Snell poses for a picture during the team's photo day at baseball spring training in Port Charlotte, Fla., Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
  3. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Tuesday's Rays-Cubs game

    The Heater

    Chris Archer's night ended with his 11th loss, but he and the Rays should feel good about his six solid innings. After the forearm tightness scare in Chicago, he had two rough outings (15 hits, 11 runs, seven innings), so Tuesday was a reassuring rebound.

  4. At 6-8, Lightning prospect Oleg Sosunov comes with, and needs, a high ceiling

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — When Hall of Famer Phil Esposito first saw Lightning prospect Oleg Sosunov, he joked that the 6-foot-8 defenseman could reach the Amalie Arena ceiling.

    Lightning 6-foot-8 defenseman Oleg Sosunov competes in the preseason opener. Phil Esposito jokes that Sosunov can reach the ceiling at Amalie Arena.
  5. Jones: Rays' Kevin Cash doesn't mind following in Joe Maddon's steps

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — On this particular night, he's the other guy. He's like a talk-show guest scooted to the end of the couch. He is Kevin Cash. And the Rays manager is standing in the home dugout at Tropicana Field.

    ST. PETERSBURG, FL - SEPTEMBER 17: Manager Kevin Cash (L) of the Tampa Bay Rays reacts to action during the game against the Boston Red Sox at Tropicana Field on September 17, 2017 in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Joseph Garnett Jr./Getty Images) 700012494