He lives a continent away, and serves aboard an aircraft carrier soon to be deployed to the Arabian Sea. But a 3,000-mile stretch won't stop Lieutenant Commander Scott Brown, USN, from rooting on Loyola, his alma mater, in Thursday's Turkey Bowl football game against archrival Calvert Hall.
"If we win, no matter where I am — Iraq, Japan or Norfolk — I give a little fist pump," said Brown, one-time star running back for the Dons. "If we lose, well . . . a loss is uncalled for, it's ridiculous. If we lose, I just can't believe that we lost."
Loyola never lost to Calvert Hall on Brown's watch. In his four years on the team (1991-94), the Dons outscored the Cardinals, 109-37. Only the 1993 game — the lone Turkey Bowl contest to be played at Towson University, until this year — was close. Loyola won, 16-11 as the 5-foot-7 Brown carried 24 times for 103 yards and scored both of his team's touchdowns in Loyola's late comeback.
Eighteen years later, the jarring hits he took in that game still resonate with Brown, 33, a Naval Information Warfare Officer stationed in Everett, Wash.
"There was a lot of contact on every one of those carries," he said. "The day was cold; the ground was hard. Calvert Hall made us earn those two touchdowns. I was so tired, and beat up, that I took a nap in the car on the way home.
"Understand, there's a sense of urgency about this game. We'd had a horrible season (2-7), but if you beat Calvert Hall, everything else is wiped away."
Brown had more cause to celebrate the victory. It came on his 16th birthday.
"My grandmother saw me play for the first time that game," he said. "If we'd lost, my birthday wouldn't have meant anything to me. You don't lose to your rival. I'd still have eaten the turkey and my mom's yellow cake with chocolate icing, but it wouldn't have tasted nearly as good."
Neither Brown nor his teammates believe that the game lost any luster, being moved from cavernous Memorial Stadium, its traditional venue, to cozy Minnegan Stadium, then Towson's field. Memorial Stadium was then being used for the filming of the movie, "Major League II."
"The stands were packed at Towson, and you feed off of the crowd," he said. "If we'd played at Memorial Stadium, there would have been a lot of empties."
Brian Nicholas, then Loyola's quarterback, agreed.
"We weren't disappointed by the venue," he said. "This was before the Ravens came, so it wasn't like we'd have been playing on a field that belonged to an NFL team.
"I remember that, at the time, Towson only had stands on one side of the field, which made for an interesting mix of both teams' fans. Plus, the stands were a lot closer to the field (than at Memorial Stadium), so we heard a lot of the taunting that went back and forth."
Nicholas, too, will reflect on that game Thursday as he sits with his two sons at Johnny Unitas Stadium, on the side awash in blue and gold.
"Some of those guys, on both teams, can relive every play of that '93 game," said Nicholas, a sales manager for ADP who lives in Hunt Valley. "It's funny — now you're in the work force, competing arm-in-arm for the same goals with guys from Calvert Hall. At 17, you had nothing but disdain for them. Now, there's a bond."
Nicholas went on to Denison (Ohio) and played football and lacrosse. Brown received an appointment to the Naval Academy and also played both sports, until sidelined by injuries. A teammate there was Alex Borcz, a Calvert Hall grad with whom Brown shared some good-natured banter.
"Whoever's (alma mater) won the Turkey Bowl got to do some ribbing," said Brown. Loyola, then in the midst of an 11-game win streak on Thanksgiving Day, never let him down in college.
"I got to talk a little smack, at Navy," Brown said.
Now married and the father of four, he serves as a cryptologist aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln. On Thursday, however, Brown may dust off his old blue-and-gold car magnet, a giant "L," and place it on the back of the family's sedan.
"I still get nolstalgic," he said. "If I could tell the teams one thing, it's 'Leave everything on the field. Don't walk away, regretting your level of effort.'
"That holds for any game, but especially this one."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun