BIRMINGHAM — For more than a moment, Tamarious Brown thought that the final play of a storybook final high school football season would be the final play of his career.

It came in the second round of the Tennessee High School football playoffs. Early in the game, Brown, who played a big role for a Kirby High team in Memphis that had won 11 games to that point, was running toward a ball carrier. He suffered a knee injury when he planted his foot to get ready to make the tackle.

"I thought my career was over with," said Brown, now a junior linebacker at UAB. "I cried and stuff like that. It was scary."

At the time, Brown was committed to Bill Clark's UAB program. Soon after the game ended, Brown said he got a call from then-defensive coordinator David Reeves. He assured Brown that the scholarship offer stood.

"It was a big relief," said Brown, who tore his ACL on the play. "I had to start over. All I was thinking was start back over and build back up."

That was just the start of a long journey for the 6-foot-2, 230-pound Brown.

He redshirted in 2020 as he continued rehabbing his knee and getting stronger. Brown said they purposely slowed down the process to ensure he was fully healthy before returning to the field. Over the next two seasons, he moved inside and outside, trying to find a role that best fits him. In those two seasons, he played in five games. Last season, in three appearances, he recorded his first stats with three tackles and a pass breakup.

"It was very difficult," Brown said. "I just kept God first, kept my head high. He's going to follow through. I had lost myself at one time and just came back closer with God."

Brown said the frustration of not playing made him lose himself for a short time. But, even during that time, he pointed the finger in the mirror.

"I feel like everybody gets a chance. It's just taking advantage of the chances," Brown said. "I was hurt (some of) the time, so I was dealing with the injuries. That held me back, too."

Another issue was that the Blazers were deep at inside linebacker, which he feels is his natural position. Cracking a veteran rotation that included since-departed mainstays Noah Wilder and Tyler Taylor, as well as transfers Reynard Ellis and Jackson Bratton, was difficult.

So, he kept working and waiting for his turn.

This spring, it's obvious that it's his turn, and he's taking advantage of the opportunity. For the most part, at least now, Brown and Bratton are playing alongside each other as the first-team inside linebackers. Now, the competition is just beginning, but the first two look solid.

Depth appears to be solid, with true freshman Everett Roussaw and Marshall transfer James Smyre enrolling early and participating in spring practice. Deshaun Oliver Jr., a former starter, who has fought through injuries, is back on the field. Reese Collier, a former junior college transfer who played early last season before taking a redshirt, and special team standout Charlie Goode also could work into the mix.

Brown, who recently changed his number from 51 to 7 at the suggestion of the coaching staff, is focused on learning the new defense and playing to the best of his ability.

"It's been fast. Everything's been fast," Brown said of the first half of spring practice. "You just got to adapt to the new environment, new coaches. I feel like we've got a lot more blitzes. I feel like we're more aggressive. I like that."

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