JOHNSTON CITY -- Johnston City football standout Austin Brown began his summer knowing he had some decisions to make as he began his senior year.
He took care of the biggest one over the July 4 weekend, giving a verbal commitment to attend the University of Wisconsin.
Brown had options, all equally attractive. He was sitting on offers from Michigan, Iowa, Illinois, Northwestern, Boston College, Duke, Vanderbilt, and Louisville, just to name a few.
"Honestly, it (Wisconsin) felt the most comfortable," said Brown. "It has a rich winning tradition and I will get the chance to work with Jim Leonhard. He was a three-time All-American at my position (safety). Who wouldn't want that opportunity?"
Brown, a 4-star safety ranked 21st nationally, also said that Wisconsin offered "a good family environment."
The fact that Brown would make that a consideration is not at all surprising to his math teacher, Lenny Clark, who describes Brown as an "all-around kid."
"If you saw him in class, you would never know he's the standout athlete drawing national attention," said Clark. "He doesn't draw attention to himself. He's just another kid in class."
That kid, however, Clark describes at a "very strong student" who "works hard."
"He has a lot on his plate," said Clark, "but he manages to get his work done."
Clark also pointed out that Brown is enrolled in the advanced math track.
"He takes high-level courses," he said. "He hasn't just skated through school."
Clark also said that Brown's work is "always good," and that Brown has several other traits that make him a standout student.
"He works well in groups or individually," said Clark. "He cares about others."
Brown carries those same traits to the gridiron, according to Indians head coach Todd Thomas.
"He's tremendously gifted," said Thomas, "but he's very much turned into a leader, someone the kids are following."
Thomas said Brown's motivation to excel and play at the next level, a level that few, if any, kids from Johnston City have ever achieved, has inspired his teammates.
"It's raised the expectations in our program," said Thomas. "We now have a lot of kids interested in playing at the college level."
Clark, who has nearly three decades in the classroom, agreed that Brown is atypical.
"We've not really had a kid like him since I've been here," he said, adding his belief that Brown will find success at Wisconsin academically and athletically.
"He's not going to allow himself to be outworked or beaten by anybody," said Clark.
That work ethic is something Brown's mom, Patti Parks, says is the reason behind her son's athletic success.
"He's always been athletic," she said, "but he found that drive in middle school."
Parks said her son was a good basketball player but between his seventh and eighth grade years, he began working on his game with a ferocious intensity.
"I would drop him off at school when I went to work," she said.
Brown would work all day and Parks said she would have to force him to stop and come home in the evening.
Brown's hard work in the off-season had big payoffs on the court when his points per game average nearly tripled.
"Once he realized the work it took to be better, he has continued to push himself harder and harder," she said.
Brown has no illusions that he can let up.
"I work out every single day," he said, "sometimes more than once. I also try to learn something new every day. I watch a lot of videos on how to get better."
Brown said he would give that advice to any kid looking to walk in his shoes.
"There are no days off," he said. "You have to keep working hard every day. Even if you only get one percent better, those one percents add up."
Parks is proud of the way her son has pursued his dream.
"His coaches have all been great," she said, "but Austin has put in the work."
She also says she doesn't sugarcoat his performances.
"After every game we talk about things," she said. "I keep it honest. I praise what is deserving but if there's something he needs to work on, I let him know that, too."
Both Clark and Thomas point to Brown's maturity as a factor in his handling of the recruiting process, something that can be daunting to students in Brown's situation.
"It appears he's done a lot of preparation throughout this process," said Thomas.
Brown's choice of Wisconsin was based on his feeling of a sense of belonging, his expectations for his role in the program, and the fact that the school offers degrees in both of his fields of interests, broadcast journalism and construction management.
Clark agreed that making the decision now will relieve the pressure and allow Brown to concentrate on his final year of being a student-athlete at Johnston City.
Brown is one of those unique kids who is as busy off the field as he is on it.
Carrying a 3.75/4.0 grade-point average, he is a member of the George R. Kee Chapter of the National Honor Society, is active in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and works two part time jobs, one for a fencing and landscaping company and another in a local gym teaching younger kids how to complete obstacle courses in the style of "American Ninja Warriors."
He also volunteers at various coaching clinics as well as at a nearby "soup kitchen," Hands of Hope.
Oh, and he also works as a volunteer for Special Olympics, an activity he shares with his mom.
"He's just a great all-around kid, a kid who cares about others," said Clark.
For Brown, he is looking forward to his senior year.
"It's going to be my last season wearing a 'Tribe' jersey," he said. "I want to keep winning games. I want to make the playoffs ... get a conference championship. I just want to give it all, play with my boys, and see where that takes it."
No matter where the road leads Brown or what his future holds, his mom says there is one thing she will make sure he remembers.
"I want him to stay humble," she said.