Grill: A Tribute to Hollywood Brown

Trayton Miller
Feb 25, 2019 · 8 min read
Mark Brown/Getty Images

“Glamour is something you can’t bear to be without once you’re used to it.” -Loretta Young

Take I-95 North from Miami. Spend 30 minutes gazing at the palm trees that line the highway and take exit 20 onto the stylishly-named Hollywood Boulevard. Drive east and absorb the pastel charm of Hollywood, Florida’s enchanting downtown. Cross the Stranahan River, find somewhere (anywhere) to park your car, and stroll to Hollywood Beach. Breathe in the heavy South Florida air and stare into the ocean. Listen as the seagulls converse above. Fall in love.

When you’re raised here, glamour is in your blood. It boils and glistens and informs the way you see life. It isn’t enough to present a glitzy aesthetic. No, you must love it, revel in it, and bathe your lifestyle in its glitter-speckled waters. It’s an inescapable taste that transcends simple likes and dislikes. It’s as much a part of you as your body or mind.

But there are two types of glamour: sophisticated Old Hollywood charm and blingy, new money flamboyance.

No place in the world combines these two styles as fluidly as South Florida. After all, Miami is home to an art deco district that famously housed fashion mogul Gianni Versace. This is, of course, the same Miami with more gold chains per capita than anywhere in the world.

These dueling forces give the region its unique flair. Every time a person, place, or thing veers too far in one direction, there’s a hint of the other to keep it distinctively South Florida. Picture spinning rims on a ’55 Corvette. A wine tasting featuring Rick Ross. Or the graceful gaudiness of Marquise “Hollywood” Brown.

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So you want to settle down with your college sweetheart and raise your 2.5 kids in a trendy yet affordably priced suburban community. You’re white, male, and in your mid-30s, while primarily enjoying fishing, watching sports, and making questionable comments to baristas. Your name is Jared. Probably.

There are plenty of destinations that’d appeal to your… unique sensibilities. But might I suggest Norman, Oklahoma?

It’s important to know, Probably Jared, that Norman’s number of pleasant and affordable family living options is second to none. Thanks to its exemplary schools, over-abundance of white people, and hopping college bar scene, Norman is the perfect place for you to clumsily ogle trashed 19-year-olds and rear your hell-raising Baby Jareds.

But if you’re not sold yet, travel to the south side of town and experience the University of Oklahoma, Norman’s crown jewel.

Few college campuses commit to a visual aesthetic as strictly as Oklahoma. The main campus is awash with matte crimson and matte cream, thanks to an obsession with brick and limestone and more brick and more limestone. This leads to a warm and consistent campus that, while attractive, ultimately lacks personality. Nothing at OU glistens, and that’s the way people like it.

OU takes great pride in its prestigious football program, which has 7 national championships and 48 conference titles to its name. Nicknamed “The Sooners” after the 1889 Land Run pioneers, the team has donned the ‘ol crimson-and-white in the same combination for almost five decades.

Every game, the Pride of Oklahoma marching band (est. 1904) opens the footballing festivities with, of course, the titular tune from Oklahoma!, the 1943 Rogers and Hammerstein musical. After touchdowns, a 19th Century-style covered wagon parades onto the field while Oklahoma’s infamous 114-year-old fight song, Boomer Sooner, pounds the eardrums of opposing players. It’s all encompassed by Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium, a 96-year-old behemoth whose façade is largely built of — you guessed it — brick and limestone.

The Norman experience is a tribute to stability. It chooses to celebrate not innovation or fashionability but rather the longevity of its culture. It less so matters that something is cool by 2019 standards than that it was kinda cool a century ago, and it, therefore, possesses residual cool. And if it didn’t glisten then, you bet your ass it won’t glisten now.

This is where we dropped Hollywood Brown, child of Glamourtown, USA.

Say you lined up college football’s top wide receivers shoulder-to-shoulder. A backyard pickup game has broken out and you’ve got the first pick. You’d immediately gravitate towards Ole Miss’ DK Metcalf, who’s a fighter jet made of abs. Or maybe Iowa State’s Hakeem Butler, whose powerful frame gives him a soul-stealing stiff arm.

But there, standing a head shorter than every other elite performer, would be Hollywood Brown.

David Stacy/Getty Images

Generously listed at 5’10”, 168 pounds on the Oklahoma roster, Hollywood was one of the smallest scholarship players on the P5 level, let alone starters. Few players made a single-digit uniform number look bigger; he donned the number 5 like his mom thought he’d grow into it eventually.

But what he lacked in size he made up for in glamour.

Hollywood Brown is, simply put, one of the most remarkable football players I’ve ever watched. For a player so derided for his stature, Hollywood’s presence on the field had weight. His penchant for big plays warped the way defenses played against Oklahoma, sparkling and dazzling whether or not the ball was in his hands. It’s what caused FOX’s Gus Johnson to bestow the famed Hollywood nickname to the artist formerly known as Marquise Brown.

Well, that and the grill, I guess.

To describe a long Hollywood Brown touchdown as electrifying would undersell its visceral nature. To describe it as devastating would cheapen its artistry. Rather, it’s best experienced when you least expect it.

Hollywood could turn a football game into a jump scare video from the early internet. Here’s Oklahoma, lazily running the ball for seven yards a pop, mid second quarter. Here’s a shot of the band! Here are the cheerleaders on the sideline! Wow, what a cute kid in the sta — HOLLYWOOD BROWN ALL THE WAY FOR SIX.

Without warning, you’re hiding behind your couch. All you remember is a small man screaming through the open field, moving with equal parts effortlessness and determination. His feet defiantly thrusted his bodyweight into the turf below, as if to remind the earth that it made him this way, too skinny and short for this gladiatorial game, but he was succeeding anyway. He was an end zone-seeking Bullet Bill darting through the secondary, leaving lesser athletes flailing in his wake.

The finishing touch is when he smiles at the camera. Hollywood dons the ol’ crimson-and-white, surrounded by 86,000 piss-drunk middle-Americans screaming with lung-busting vigor in a vast monument to sweat, toil, and flyover country fortitude.

And in his mouth is nothing but gold.

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

What Hollywood brought to OU was wholly un-Oklahoman. His play shined; every solitary step bared the luxuriousness of a vintage fur wrap and the ferociousness of a bass drop. His short-area quickness possessed the technical mastery of a fine engraving. His straight-line speed was a tricked-out corvette squealing down a busy street, double middle fingers hanging out the windows. His play perfectly encapsulated the magic of South Florida, all the way down to the teethwear.

Hollywood spent just two seasons in Norman, tallying 132 catches and 17 TDs in just 25 games. He has the honor of holding three of OU’s ten biggest receiving yardage games of all time, which would be impressive in and of itself. But what’s even better? All three came on the road.

During his sophomore campaign, Hollywood produced his masterpiece. On a November afternoon in Stillwater, he racked up a school-record 265 yards and 2 TDs on just 9 catches, painting Oklahoma State’s turf with the bodies of exasperated Cowboy defenders.

Pause this video at :22. Hollywood’s just caught the ball on the right hash, seven yards past the line of scrimmage. Zero defenders from this point forward so much as breathe on Hollywood Brown.

The only DB that feigns a tackle attempt is Tre Flowers, who, in relation to Hollywood, runs like his socks got wet at the bus stop that morning and every movement is the new grossest feeling of his life.

Related: Tre Flowers was first-team All-Big XII that season.

David Stacy/Getty Images

Many called 2017 Bedlam Hollywood’s breakout moment. But I’d argue it was closer to a thesis statement. The Oklahoma offense was going to fry you. Just pick which oil you’d like. White TE? Thick fullback? Bite-sized wide receiver? That year, they started a former walk-on at QB and a RB who entered the year with more career-threatening injuries than carries. And then, through skill, stamina, and the smarts of head coach Lincoln Riley, they obliterated every defense they faced.

2017 Oklahoma was the best offense in recent college football history, only to be surpassed by… 2018 Oklahoma. And even as Baker Mayfield yielded to Kyler Murray and Rodney Anderson’s knee injury cleared the path for Kennedy Brooks and Trey Sermon, Hollywood connected the two historic offenses with his dynamic downfield presence.

He was Oklahoma’s afterburners, lifting two merely awesome offenses into the All-Time-Great-osphere. His dazzling deep routes unlocked new pastures for the Sooner offense to explore. And the underneath efforts of Anderson, Sermon, Mark Andrews, Grant Calcaterra, and Dimitri Flowers pulled safeties away from Hollywood’s downfield brilliance. As different as they were, Hollywood Brown and Oklahoma found common ground in Riley’s offense.

One only has to point to the 2018 Orange Bowl for proof of this symbiotic relationship. Following a foot injury in the Big XII title game, Hollywood was hobbled for the biggest game of Oklahoma’s season. He gave it an honest go, but he ended the game with zero catches. If only out of muscle memory, OU’s biggest play of the night came on a deep shot to Hollywood’s backup, freshman Charleston Rambo, who hauled in a familiar-feeling 49-yard score. But in the end, it wasn’t enough to best Alabama. For the first time since Hollywood arrived, OU had a dull game.

Oklahoma wouldn’t have been the same without Hollywood. And Hollywood wouldn’t have been the same without Oklahoma. Together, they gave birth to college football’s foremost fire-breathing dragon, terrorizing innocent college towns and scorching the Great Plains, all while wearing a grill.

Where he’ll apply his trade in the NFL has yet to be determined. But after two magical seasons of watching Hollywood Brown, I just know that I’ll miss him. All of Norman will too. His time in Oklahoma was a whirlwind of dazzling brilliance, leaving his glitter-speckled fingerprints all over the hearts of Norman, Oklahoma, and everyone who watched him.

They didn’t glisten before, but damn if they don’t now.

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