News & Observer sports columnist Caulton Tudor looks at the top all-time ACC football players by position. Today, the running backs.
The most prolific running back in the history of ACC football almost left school before ever rushing for a yard at N.C. State.
"I almost took off," Ted Brown said. "It would have been crazy, but I almost did."
It was midway through the 1975 season, Brown's freshman year and Lou Holtz's last as Wolfpack coach.
A lightly recruited 175-pounder from High Point's T.W. Andrews High, Brown spent the first five weeks of the season on special teams, the scout team and junior varsity.
But after a 37-15 pounding at Michigan State dropped N.C. State's record to 2-2 entering a home game against Indiana, Holtz made the decision to give Brown a chance.
"Lou said if he was going to lose, he might as well lose with a freshman," Brown recalled. "I knew it was going to be my big chance."
Against Indiana, Brown rushed for more than 100 yards and keyed a 27-0 win. State went on to a 7-4-1 record and Holtz's fourth straight bowl game.
By the time Brown ended his career with the Pack - a total of 43 games - he had rushed for 4,602 yards and 51 touchdowns, plus 82 pass receptions for another 760 yards. Those totals don't include 399 additional rushing yards in three bowl games.
Brown's rushing record still stands, although Boston College's Montel Harris will begin 2011 with 3,600 yards through 37 games.
That the record has stood this long continues to surprise Brown.
"Oh, gosh, yes, I'm surprised by that," Brown, 54, said. "I sort of keep an eye on who's doing what, but I'm not jealous of that record at all. Somebody will go past me, and that's fine. That's the way it should be in sports.
"Plus, football has changed since my day. The era of the workhorse running back is more or less gone. Offenses have changed. There's a lot more passing. Backs block more now, but we did block a lot in the Veer (offense) at State."
Early in that first season, Brown said the adjustment from high school star to college sub was difficult.
"The only schools that recruited me were ECU and Appalachian," he said. "That first month or so, I'd look at what ECU was doing with that Wishbone they ran under Pat Dye. He was the only coach who told me in recruiting that I could be a starter from the start.
"Coach Holtz said up front that he didn't like having to play freshmen, but I definitely made the right decision by staying."
From State, Brown played eight seasons with the Minnesota Vikings, rushing for more than 4,500 yards and 40 touchdowns.
Brown still lives in Minnesota and works for the Ramsey County juvenile probation office in St. Paul.
His son, J.T., was a rising sophomore standout on the Minnesota-Duluth hockey team that won the 2011 NCAA Frozen Four championship. In 42 games, he had 16 goals and 11 assists.
J.T. wears jersey No. 23 - a number no State football player will wear again. It's retired by the Wolfpack in honor of the No. 1 running back in ACC history.
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