Skyline sophomore pushed himself to keep up with his brothers
November 30, 2010
By Mason Kelley
Max Browne trudged into the house, dejected.
“I am bad. I am awful. I didn’t get any hits,” the 7-year-old announced to whomever would listen.
When family members asked him what was wrong, he explained that after 27 at-bats against his older brother, Michael, he couldn’t get a hit.
He couldn’t even make contact. There was a six-year gap between the two brothers, but Max couldn’t be comforted.
He has always wanted to win.
Eight years later, Max is the sophomore starting quarterback for top-ranked Skyline (12-1), winner of three consecutive state football championships, which plays Ferris 4 p.m. Dec. 4 for the 4A title at the Tacoma Dome.
When Mitch, Max’s oldest brother and an accomplished high-school quarterback in his own right, thinks back to that moment, he’s not surprised by what his kid brother, the youngest of four boys, has accomplished.
“When he was 5, he thought he was 13 and when he was 10 he thought he was 18. He always wanted to play with the older kids,” said Mitch, 28, who started at quarterback for Skyline his freshman year in 1997 and led the Spartans to their first state title in 2000.
“I’ve seen this coming for a few years. I’m the least surprised of anyone you’ll encounter.”
Forced to deal with the pressure of following three-year starter Jake Heaps, who went 40-2 as Skyline’s starter and is now the starting quarterback at Brigham Young, Browne has played with poise that has impressed both his coaches and opponents.
“When we played him back in September he had a great arm, great accuracy,” Bellevue senior quarterback/safety Kendrick Van Ackeren said. “For as young as he is, coming in as a sophomore, his first year really playing at the varsity level, he did an amazing job. He’s putting balls right on point.”
The 6-foot-5, 200-pound 15-year-old won the respect of teammates with his arm and demeanor. He has almost 3,500 passing yards to go with 44 touchdowns and only seven interceptions through 12 games.
“Hard work pays off,” Max said. “He (Mitch) did the same thing I did. Hopefully, in a couple of weeks, that will lead to the same result, a state championship.”
Mitch worked hard, but the older brother continues to be impressed with the dedication of his younger brother.
It started at an early age.
Mitch remembers pulling into the driveway on a cold, fall day only to find Max dribbling in the driveway. He wasn’t shooting, just dribbling.
“What are you doing?” Mitch asked. “Why aren’t you shooting?”
“I’m just working on my offhand,” Max replied.
“I can’t imagine many kids — I know I wasn’t that way — who are out there trying to work on their weaknesses, focusing on the little things,” said Mitch, who will fly to Seattle from California this weekend for the semifinals.
Like Heaps, his predecessor, Max has long dreamed of playing for the Spartans. In fact, there are few people who have seen more Skyline football games than Max Browne. He still remembers all the names of the 2000 state title team.
“That’s always the joke, that I can name all 22 starters,” said Max, who started learning Skyline’s system playing youth football. “I grew up knowing those guys and the system.”
Max was only 5 during the Spartans’ first championship run. He was in the stands when his brother took the field trailing White River 19-14 in the first round. There were 37.6 seconds left and Skyline was 76 yards from the end zone.
Max looked up at his father, Mike.
“What happens if we lose, Dad? We can’t lose.”
Mitch went on to lead a game-winning drive. He also went on to set school and KingCo passing records. Many of those were later broken by Heaps. Now it’s Max’s turn. He has already toppled the KingCo season passing record.
At the end of last season’s title game against Ferris of Spokane, he stepped onto the Tacoma Dome turf to take the final snaps. Before stepping into the huddle, Heaps threw his arms around the freshman.
“This is your team now,” Heaps said. “Enjoy the moment, you’re going to be back here.”
This year, Max weathered one of the most difficult regular-season schedules in the state — six games against ranked opponents. He has topped the 400-yard mark twice, throwing for 408 in his first start and 415 last week against Issaquah in the quarterfinals.
“If he keeps doing his work and he keeps putting in a lot of effort to his football career, he’s definitely going to be someone people are looking after and someone that’s going to end up with 30 offers,” Skyline’s Washington-bound receiver, Kasen Williams, said. “A lot of people are going to be looking at him and thinking he’s someone special.”
Max said the Huskies have already offered him a scholarship. More offers are sure to follow.
“To be able to make the adjustments, to play such high-caliber teams and the schedule that we have, and to continue to improve the way he has is truly remarkable,” Skyline coach Mat Taylor said.
When Mitch looks at his younger brother now, he still sees that 5-year-old dribbling in the driveway, the child who always wanted to beat — or at least compete — with his brothers.
It motivated Max then. It still does.
“Having three older brothers definitely helps you, because you’ve got big shoes to fill every year,” Max said. “My brothers played different sports, but at the same time they’re all competing for one goal and that’s to be the best player on the court or field. That’s what I strive to do every time I get out there.”
BYU quarterback Jake Heaps praises Max Browne
Even though he’s moved on to Brigham Young University, quarterback Jake Heaps still keeps tabs on Skyline High School football.
This season, he’s been particularly curious about his former protégé, sophomore Max Browne.
“The things that he’s done are pretty tremendous,” said Heaps, who quarterbacked the Spartans to three state titles before becoming BYU’s starting signal-caller this season.
“Really, for Max, it’s really been kind of on his shoulders. The way he’s been able to handle that sort of pressure and the way he’s been able to do it right from the get go is very impressive,” Heaps said. “I’ve been really proud of him.
“I couldn’t be more proud of him and the way he’s carried on the tradition there at Skyline. He’s just done a fantastic job. I still keep in touch with him every now and then, just to see how he’s doing, see if he has any questions for me.”
Mason Kelley: 206-464-8277 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.