July 23, 2013
Editor's note: This story appears in the summer issue of The Horn, CSU Athletics' magazine. All former student-athletes and Ram Club members receive The Horn on a quarterly basis. For more information, contact the Ram Club Office, (970) 491-4666.
By Gary Ozzello
Leonice Brown remembers it like it was yesterday.
Just more than five minutes showed on the scoreboard clock at LSU’s Tiger Stadium, better known as “Death Valley.”
“Like it was yesterday,” the former Colorado State University runningback chuckled. “It was the ‘outside zone’ play.”
Brown, a speedster from San Fernando, Calif., took the handoff from quarterback Anthoney Hill and headed right.
“I didn’t expect the linebacker to flash, so I took it outside.
“And ran for my life.”
Brown scampered down the sideline, finishing with a touchdown 80 yards later.
“I had to beat the safety coming across the field. And he was big,” Brown explained of his scoring jaunt right in front of CSU’s team bench for a score that would put the Rams ahead, 14-10.
He would finish the game with 116 yards on nine attempts to lead the Rams to a 17-14 victory in what has been and remains one of college football’s most intimidating venues. Hill, a teammate and future CSU Hall of Famer, scored the game-winning touchdown with just 50 seconds remaining in the game to secure the upset victory.
Brown would finish the 1992 season with 1,051 yards, averaging nearly 90 per game for Earle Bruce’s team. He finished his career by gaining 2,262 yards, at one time ranking among the top 10 career rushers in school history.
He also played two seasons under legendary Rams’ coach Sonny Lubick. Brown, a deputy probation officer in Los Angeles County for the past 15 years, has many memories about his Colorado State experience.
On the field and off.
“I remember beating Arizona in 1994 on the road. And the win over Wyoming that season,” he recalled.
Brown and his teammates went to Tucson in a matchup of nationally ranked teams. The Wildcats, led by former star Tedy Bruschi, were a preseason No. 1 pick. Lubick guided the Rams to one of the greatest victories in school history, a 21-16 win that propelled the Rams up the national rankings.
Weeks later, trailing 24-7 to rival Wyoming at sold-out Hughes Stadium, Brown and his teammates rallied for a 28-24 win, setting off a delirious celebration throughout the city.
CSU would later finish 10-2 and win the Western Athletic Conference title and play Michigan in the Holiday Bowl.
“I’ll never forget those things. We were part of something special,” he said. “It’s a time in my life I’ll never forget.”
While those memories mean much, he’s quick to point out that the lessons learned from football, which he uses in his life daily, as well as his love for the Fort Collins community, are just as important.
“I grew up in a rough neighborhood in Los Angeles. When I got here, I believed certain people were categorized in a certain way,” he explained. “I didn’t know what to expect.”
Brown said from the time he set foot in Fort Collins, his perceptions changed dramatically.
“I realized in Fort Collins, everyone was so nice to me. You can’t judge others by what you hear on television.
“I’ll never forget it. Fort Collins helped me develop into who I am today.”
He also won’t forget the lessons taught by Bruce, Lubick, and their respective staff members.
“I learned teamwork. I learned hard work and discipline. I still live by those things today,” he said.
In his role as a deputy probation officer, he handles adult caseloads for individuals who have undergone narcotics testing.
Brown reviews the tests and makes recommendations in each of the cases.
He also uses the lessons he learned as a student- athlete at Colorado State as a husband and father. His wife, Malesha, is from Fort Collins. That affords Leonice plenty of trips back to a place that holds many memories for him.
The couple has five children, including sons Leonice Jr., Xavier, and Justice, along with daughters Lena and Maelyn.
“It keeps us busy, keeping up with the kids,” he laughs. “But my family is wonderful. It is beautiful watching them grow up.”
Likewise, the memories of his time playing for the Rams are beautiful as well.
“I’ll never forget Fort Collins. The green and gold are special, they are beautiful.”