GAINESVILLE — With Graham Mertz sidelined because of a collarbone injury, the Florida Gators’ bowl eligibility depends largely on how quarterback Max Brown performs in his first career start against No. 5 Florida State.
“I think Max is a competitor,” coach Billy Napier said. “He’s got a belief in himself.”
Here are five things to know about Brown, a 6-foot-1, 211-pound redshirt freshman from Tulsa, Oklahoma.
1. He has a unique place in Napier’s Florida tenure
That’s because he was the first high school quarterback Napier signed. Because of the time crunch with the early signing period, it’s hard for brand-new coaches to get involved in high-end quarterback prospects their first cycle. Napier didn’t sign one in December 2021 but evaluated the class leading up to the traditional February date. The Gators saw Brown play at Lincoln Christian High and saw potential.
“Really a good-looking athlete,” Napier said that signing day. “We think he has upside.”
Brown accounted for 101 touchdowns in two seasons at Lincoln Christian and also got late recruiting interest from the new staff at Washington.
2. Max Brown is a two-sport athlete
He was one of the top baseball prospects in Oklahoma and had 10 home runs and 45 RBIs as a junior in 2021. Brown is an outfielder on the Gators’ team but didn’t play last season during his redshirt year.
When asked which sport is his favorite during the spring, his non-committal answer was still revealing.
“I mean, I’m a football guy playing baseball, too,” Brown said. “I think that kind of answers that right there.”
3. He comes from an athletic family
His father, Corey Brown, was a speedy receiver at Tulsa and remains one of only three players in Golden Hurricane history to have a pair of catches of 70-plus yards. He later spent time with the Falcons and 49ers but did not appear in an NFL game.
The younger Brown’s athleticism is evident. His running ability is one of the reasons why Napier liked him coming out of high school. Saturday at Missouri, he rushed five times for 53 yards (excluding a sack and lost fumble).
Stay updated on Tampa Bay’s sports scene
Subscribe to our free Sports Today newsletter
You’re all signed up!
Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.Explore all your options
4. His ascension is somewhat surprising
That’s not a knock on Brown; it’s a reflection of the situation around him.
He joined UF in the same class as Jack Miller III, a blue-chip transfer from Ohio State. When Anthony Richardson left early for the NFL, Miller started last December’s Las Vegas Bowl; Brown was No. 3 on the depth chart behind walk-on Kyle Engel. He started this season third on the depth chart, too, but passed Miller leading up to the game at South Carolina in Week 7.
Brown’s future could have been shakier if the Gators had been able to keep Jaden Rashada, a blue-chip signee in the ‘23 recruiting class. But Rashada left after a multimillion-dollar name, image and likeness dispute, eliminating more competition for Brown.
5. He has another notable Florida tie
Before Florida’s staff started recruiting Brown, he was committed to Central Michigan and former Gators coach Jim McElwain. Brown said McElwain was “understanding” when he flipped.
“McElwain is a great guy, and I won’t take anything away from that program,” Brown said this spring.
Though McElwain’s 22-12 Florida tenure isn’t a beloved part of the Gators’ history, he does have a good eye for quarterbacks; McElwain signed Kyle Trask, who wasn’t among the nation’s top 2,000 recruits in his class but grew into a Heisman Trophy finalist and second-round NFL draft pick by the Bucs.
• • •
Sign up for the Sports Today newsletter to get daily updates on the Bucs, Rays, Lightning and college football across Florida.