The phone call made Travis Brown nervous.
It came from longtime Northern Arizona head athletic trainer Mike Nesbitt in late July.
"He said, 'T. Brown are you sitting down?'" Brown recalled Nesbitt saying to start the conversation. "I was like, 'Oh, great, who's in the hospital?'"
The former Lumberjacks quarterback, then getting ready for Buffalo Bills training camp, thought Nesbitt was the bearer of bad news. He wasn't.
Nesbitt had the joyful task of calling Brown to let him know he'd be inducted into the NAU Athletics Hall of Fame in the fall on his first ballot.
"It is an unbelievable feeling. It is real humbling going in with the guys that are already in there," Brown said, "the Jeff Lewises and the Greg Wyatts, even Mike Nesbitt is in there. Just all the great people that have been through there, it's just an honor to be considered for it."
The 2004 Hall of Fame class is also comprised of Sam Borozan, who has been an NAU administrator/booster since 1953; John Emmett, a Lumberjack baseball player in 1976-77; and the 1997-98 men's basketball team, which was coached by current UCLA hoops boss Ben Howland.
"This is one of those things when you're a player and you're in school, this isn't something that you're striving for," Brown said of being inducted into the Hall. "You are trying to win games. … This isn't something that you worked towards.
"I don't know if you accomplish this. Obviously people have to vote you in and its their decision, but it's not something that you spend your whole career aiming towards the hall of fame."
Brown left NAU in 1999 as the school's all-time leader in touchdown passes (86), total offense (11,267 passing yards) and passing yards (11,400), passing yards per game (278.0 ypg) and total offense per game (274.8 ypg). He holds school records for 300-yard passing games (19) and 400-yard passing games (four). He threw six TD passes in a game on two occasions. When his illustrious college career was over, Brown was in Division I-AA's top 10 for career stats for TD passes (ninth), passing yards (fifth), passing yards per game (10th) and total offense (seventh).
This preseason, Brown was chugging along just fine as Buffalo's second-string QB until he strained his medial colateral ligament in his knee during the third exhibition game. He recently came to terms on an injury settlement with the Bills. He is currently rehabbing in the Valley and cannot re-sign with the Bills until Week 12, but he can sign a free-agent deal with the league's other 31 clubs at any time.
"My plan is to get healthy. I should be fully healthy in two to three weeks and see if I can land on somewhere," the Phoenix Moon Valley High School graduate said.
Brown and his wife Corinna have two children, Makayla, 2 1/2, and Tatum, 4 months.
As for the future, Brown, who spent the 2000 season with the Seattle Seahawks and the next three-plus years with the Bills as a backup, said he believes his best days are ahead of him in the pros.
"I have a lot left in me," said Brown, who serves as a volunteer coach at Moon Valley. "As a quarterback, you can sit back, watch and learn. Not a lot of other positions are like that. Mentally, I feel like I'm hitting my stride in terms of how I approach the game."
OLD GOLFING BUDDIES
NAU coach Jerome Souers has known Weber State coach Jerry Graybeal for two-plus decades, dating back to 1984, when Souers was an assistant coach at Western Washington and Graybeal was an assistant at Eastern Washington.
Over the years the two avid golfers, who first got their start as defensive position coaches, have discussed coaching philosophies while walking the links.
"I've known Jerry for 21 years now and his teams are always well-coached and disciplined and they are going to play hard," Souers said. "After we played them last year, we know that the game was a lot closer than the score (48-29) indicated. To see that they won out at the end of the season, I was happy for Jerry."
What were Graybeal's first impressions of Souers many years ago?
"He has a lot of energy," the WSU coach said. "I think he's a real good players' coach. The players are naturally attracted to his (hands-on) style. … He's got a serious fire in his tank."
Both are in their seventh year at their respective schools, their first head coaching gigs.
History tells us the Wildcats are not a good dome or artificial turf team. They have a 21-59 all-time record playing on turf, including a 2-11 record at the Skydome. … Weber State leads the all-time series 21-19. NAU, however, has won five of the last six meetings, including three in a row: 48-29 in 2003, 26-21 in '02 and 42-32 in '01.
NAU hasn't lost three straight games to begin the season since 1971. … NAU has won 11 straight home openers. The school has a 65-22-2 all-time record in home openers.
Kevin Stephens will make his debut as a color commentator on today's radio broadcast, teaming up with play-by-play man Kent Derdivanis. Stephens, a backup quarterback for the Lumberjacks in 1996, is filling in for Bill Lewis, who works on both NAU and Arizona Cardinals broadcasts. Stephens is a Flagstaff accountant.
Fans can travel with the Jacks to the Montana (Nov. 6) and Idaho State (Nov. 13) games. Packages include round-trip airfare, hotel accommodations, tailgate festivities and a game ticket. A $50 non-refundable deposit is due by the reservation deadline (Oct. 21 for Montana and Nov. 4 for Idaho State). Call Larry Aschebrook or Linda Stromberg in the NAU athletics office at 523-5353 to make reservations. Space is limited.
Weber State cornerback Dewey Crayton (ankle) is listed as questionable. NAU wide receiver Mark Del Giorgio (knee) and linebacker Bruce Branch (knee) are out.
THE LAST WORD
"Don't be surprised if you're surprised in every contest," Souers said on the unpredictability of Big Sky football games.
Readers can reach Ed at 556-2251 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
— Arizona Daily Sun