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Dru Brown’s Winding Journey That Led Him to Oklahoma State

On Dru Brown’s journey from Cali to Hawaii and, finally, OSU.



STILLWATER — When Hawaii granted Dru Brown his release in the summer of 2018, it was a junior college connection that led him to Oklahoma State.

Brown had started 22 games in two years with the Rainbow Warriors where he threw for 5,273 yards and scored 43 total touchdowns when he took to social media, stating he received his release. In the post, he thanked his coaches and Hawaii as a whole before announcing he would graduate and transfer elsewhere.

Among the replies of gratitude and well-wishes, there was Sione Finefeuiaki. Brown and Finefeuiaki were teammates for a season at the College of San Mateo, and Finefeuiaki, a cowboy back at OSU in 2017 and 2018, had an idea as to where his former teammate should transfer:


“I didn’t think he’d actually pursue it because at the time, Dru had places like Washington State, LSU and other places offer him, as well,” Finefeuiaki, who played two seasons at OSU in 2017 and 2018, told PFB in an interview this week. “I never thought that he’d actually come to OSU. I kind of did it jokingly, but we talked and found out he was serious about it and we kind of went from there.”

From there, Finefeuiaki passed Brown’s tape to OSU player development specialist Beni Tonga, where the idea of Brown coming to Stillwater got shot up the line.

“I talked to Beni,” Finefeuiaki said. “At first, I would bring it up, and Beni was like, ‘OK.’ Then I asked Beni the next day. I was like, ‘Beni, did you check out his film?’ Beni would say that he was going to but he hadn’t looked at it yet.

“So, I kind of bugged Beni about it. Beni, he also helps with the cowboy backs, so I built a pretty good relationship with Beni. I kept bugging Beni about it, telling Beni that this guy’s the real deal. I showed him Dru’s highlight tape from Hawaii, and if you’ve seen Dru’s highlight tape from Hawaii, the man goes off. I guess Beni finally got to it, and he’s able to show (Mike) Yurcich and (Mike) Gundy, and it kind of went from there.”

Brown and Finefeuiaki are both from the Bay Area in California. Finefeuiaki said the two played against each other in high school before teaming up at the College of San Mateo. In Brown’s one season with the Bulldogs, he threw for 1,879 yards and 21 touchdowns in a triple-option offense. In his final game at the junior college level, Brown threw for 425 yards and seven scores.

That 2015 season was Finefeuiaki’s first of two with the Bulldogs. That season, he played as a linebacker before moving to fullback in 2016. Despite being on opposite sides of the ball, Finefeuiaki said it wasn’t hard becoming friends with Brown.

“Dru was just really open,” Finefeuiaki said. “It’s pretty easy to build a relationship with Dru. Most of our goals kind of aligned. We both wanted to go big Division I. Dru is really deep into his faith. Dru’s one of those guys where it’s just easy to click with him.”

After Finefeuiaki got Brown’s foot in the door, Brown said he was able to talk on the phone with OSU coach Mike Gundy and then-offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich. Brown took a visit and decided to use his final season of eligibility away from the beaches of Hawaii or comfort of Northern California in Stillwater.

The transition wasn’t as seamless as it appears — and it still isn’t. Sure, Mason Rudolph was headed to the Pittsburgh Steelers after starting games for the Cowboys in the past four seasons. But, Brown was joining the team the same time All-Texas everything quarterback Spencer Sanders was, and fifth-year senior Taylor Cornelius was still at OSU after learning under Rudolph for four seasons.

After being Hawaii’s guy the past two seasons, Brown was limited to one snap at OSU in 2018, and it only came because Cornelius’ helmet came off in the Liberty Bowl. Not many grad transfers’ idea of a dream start at a Power 5 school.

‘I’m a firm believer that it’s beautiful everywhere’

Stillwater summers are what you make them.

For some, it’s a boring town to be in during June and July as a good chunk of the population leaves when the school year ends. Others embrace the serenity of things, something Dru Brown did this summer.

Brown is from San Mateo, California, which is between San Francisco and San Jose. When he was looking for something to do in the middle of America, he turned to offensive linemen Johnny Wilson, a Texan, and Ry Schneider, an Oklahoman.

“Can you guys teach me how to fish? Because I’ve never been fishing before,” Brown asked.

“I had to fix the pole a couple times, but he got the hang of it,” Wilson said of Brown’s first outing. “He’s getting better. He’s good. He can throw an open face now, he can throw the spinner, so it’s good.”

For four straight days Brown didn’t catch a thing, but he said he was adamant on at least catching something before he turned this new hobby down. Then he finally got one.

“As soon as I caught something, it was like an addiction,” Brown said. “We’ve gone a bunch. Obviously, camp started, so we can’t go out as much. I’m sure that me and Johnny will go as soon as we get a day off here soon.”

Oklahoma is not California, and it’s certainly not Hawaii. Although Oklahoma might not have California’s weather or Hawaii’s beaches, Brown said the state has its own appeal and beauty.

“It’s just different,” Brown said. “I’m a firm believer that it’s beautiful everywhere,” he adds. “Being from California, the transition to Hawaii was different, but the transition out here was really different.

“If I didn’t have to sit last year, and sit behind Corn, I would have never, probably, fished ever. It’s just a blessing in disguise. Me being out here for a year, and me getting involved in things people do out here, it’s beautiful in its own way, for sure.”

The End of Brown’s Well-Traveled Collegiate Career

OSU has yet to name a starting QB, and it appears the two will likely share snaps early in the season. Still, there are more ways for Brown to prove himself as a college QB than just touchdowns and victories.

“Leadership, I think that’s one thing Dru was able to do with this offseason,” Finefeuiaki said. “He was able to show his leadership because when Dru came last year, he came right at fall camp. Nobody really knew who Dru was. Whereas this year, he had the whole offseason to show his work ethic and all that. His faith, his leadership, his accountability and just how hard he works. The guy’s always putting the extra work in. … I don’t think there’s anybody who works harder than Dru.”

What might’ve been originally been just one year for Brown in Stillwater quickly turned into two, as he was able to take advantage of the new rule that allows players to play in up to four games while still retaining a redshirt. He went about his business, spent a year in OSU’s system and now might start for one of the best offenses in the country.

There aren’t enough fish in Lake McMurtry to match that kind of anticipation.

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