Whenever Deonte Brown calls or texts Bradley Bozeman, it pops up with his nickname, the one the redshirt sophomore offensive lineman has had since arriving at Alabama — “Cornbread.”
It may be time for a new nickname, though.
“From the time I got his number, he’s been saved in my phone as that, as Cornbread,” said Bozeman, who is now with the Baltimore Ravens. “But, I mean, he’s more closer to a flatbread now.”
For a while, people around the Alabama program would describe Brown the same way: Man, he could be really good if he can ever get to a good point weight-wise.
He’s now done that.
Two years ago, the 6-foot-4 Brown arrived in Tuscaloosa weighing 400 pounds. Two years later, the Decatur native is down 70 pounds and may be the Crimson Tide’s long-term answer at left guard, a position that had been a consistent problem area for the Tide through the first half of the regular season.
The former four-star recruit made his first career start against Tennessee Oct. 20. It looks like he’ll make start No. 2 against LSU on Saturday.
“He’s worked hard, bided his time and worked through the process to get his opportunity,” said Brown’s high school coach, Jeremy Perkins. “Now that he’s gotten it, he wants to work extremely hard to keep it and continue to get better.”
It hasn’t been easy to get here, though.
It’s taken help from real-life versions of the camp from the movie Heavyweights, except without a Ben Stiller-type figure or any craziness like there was in the movie.
Brown has been to at least three of those weight loss camps during the last couple years, one in North Carolina and two in Florida. Each time, he was gone for a week. And each time, he lost weight and came back with a better understanding of how to manage his weight moving forward.
“Those places taught him all about what not to eat and what he could eat, and those places have really helped him make a big change,” said Brown’s father, Alphonso Pettus. “And he’s really wanted to play, so he’s put in a lot of effort to not go back to the old eating habits that he had before he went down to Alabama.”
Even at close to 400 pounds, there would be times during Alabama workouts and practices that Brown would look like an All-American.
As people around the program would describe it, there would be stretches of five to 10 plays during which Brown would be dominant and display the type of power you’d expect from someone who has bench-pressed 500 pounds and squatted nearly 700 pounds. But then, Brown would get tired and his level of play would drop off.
Now, that’s not as much of an issue.
After playing strictly as a backup during the Tide’s first six games, Brown got 25 snaps at left guard with the first-team offense against Missouri and then took over for Lester Cotton as Alabama’s starting left guard heading into the Tennessee game.
Center Ross Pierschbacher told Bozeman after the game that Brown “came in and played really well and played with a lot of power.”
“We all have things that we can improve on, but he played well,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said of Brown. “He’s gotten an opportunity to play some this year, and I think he’s grown with that. Really proud of the fact that he’s overcome a lot to put himself in a position to be able to play and play effectively. We were pleased with the way he played.”
The only problem?
As Brown’s father told him recently, he now needs some new clothes.
“I had to tell him that he needs to change pants because the pants he was wearing were too big for him,” Brown’s dad said, laughing. “I told him there was too much slack in the seam of his pants, so he’s going to get some more pants now.”
Matt Zenitz is an Alabama and Auburn reporter for the Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @mzenitz.