Since receiving his ‘Likely Letter’ from Harvard in October, American Heritage quarterback Jason Brown has been eagerly anticipating the arrival of his formal acceptance letter — which should arrive sometime before the end of this month.
“It’s kind of been a dream of mine since I was younger because my uncle played in the Ivy League and won two titles with Harvard,” said Brown, the nephew of former Miami Beach High star and Crimson linebacker Andy Nolan, who is now an Ophthalmologist in Pompano Beach.
“Seeing my uncle’s life and how it played out and hearing his stories of winning the Ivy League championships and the connections it provided him with, I just feel like Harvard gives me the best opportunity athletically and academically to do what’s best for my future.”
It’s certainly an exciting time in the Brown household because he’s actually on the precipice of making two dreams come true this month. On Friday afternoon in Orlando, the 6-3, 185-pound dual-threat quarterback will attempt to lead the Patriots (13-0) to their third state title in four years when they take on the Ponte Vedra Sharks (13-0) in the Class 5A state championship game at Camping World Stadium.
The backup to Torrance Gibson, a former blue-chip recruit who signed with Ohio State, on the Patriots’ last state title team in 2014, Brown has gone 21-2 as a starter over the past two seasons. This season, he’s completed nearly 60 percent of his passes for 1,525 yards and 13 touchdowns while running for 514 yards and four more scores for the nation’s 11th-ranked team, according to MaxPreps.
On a team loaded with future college football stars committed to schools like Florida, Michigan, Nebraska and Pittsburgh and which features a defense that boasts nine starters with Football Bowl Subdivision offers, it’s ultimately the future Ivy Leaguer who runs the 40 in 4.5 seconds whose role looms largest.
When he plays mistake-free, the Patriots usually cruise past their opponents. Whenever he puts the ball on the ground or throws a pick, Heritage finds itself in a much tougher situation.
Thus was the case in the team’s preseason loss to four-time defending Class 4A state champion Miami Booker T. Washington, when Brown threw two interceptions, including a pick-six. In the playoffs last month against district rival Cardinal Gibbons, when Brown fumbled an exchange in the backfield the Chiefs pounced on it in the end zone, taking the lead late in the third quarter. Heritage eventually rallied behind Brown to win that game.
Coach Patrick Surtain, a former Dolphins cornerback whose son Patrick Jr., a junior, is one of the standouts on defense, said his faith in Brown has never wavered.
“When you think Jason, you think tough, you think resilient,” he said. “After the Booker T. game, everybody was doubting him. He came back the next week and rushed for almost 100 yards and threw for 200 and two touchdowns against Colquitt County, Georgia, in an ESPN game. It just shows you what kind of player he is at the quarterback position. You have to be able to put the bad plays behind you, and he’s been able to do that at every occasion this year.”
The Patriots trust him so much that Surtain said Brown has full autonomy to change the play at the line of scrimmage if he sees an adjustment needs to be made.
Brown is certainly smart enough to handle more than football. He has a 4.3 GPA and scored a 29 on his ACT. He needed to score at least a 27 to get into Harvard. He said he would like to major in economics and study at Harvard’s Business School. Brown said his father owns a barricade company in Miami, and he can see himself owning a business one day, too.
But first he wants to lead Heritage to another title and its first undefeated season.
“It would mean the world. It really would,” Brown said. “Just helping these other kids who have never had a ring get one, it would mean a lot.”
▪ Heritage has two other players on the roster — sons of former Dolphins — with Ivy League offers. Columbia, Dartmouth and Penn have made offers to bandit safety Will Allen and strong safety Blake Wooden. Allen also has an offer from Army.
Seven former Patriots played last season in the Ivy League. Former kicker Oren Milstein was a unanimous All-Ivy League first-team selection this season at Columbia as a freshman. Nathan Kirchmier, now a junior offensive lineman at Penn, was named All-Ivy League honorable mention.