For UH quarterback Dru Brown, the 2017 preseason has been an entirely different experience than fall camp just a year ago. In fact, for Brown, it's a season full of new expectations, with a new look, and a new number. While Hawaii's QB number one earned his starting last season, in 2017 he still had to work to earn the right to wear the number two.
"It was surreal getting back to number two. I've worn it my whole life," said Dru Brown, debuting his new number at this year's fall camp.
But, the jersey change is much more than just a number on a roster when it comes to the Rainbow Warriors. For Brown, earning the right to change from #19 last season to two this year, is actually a symbol of how far he's come as a player and a leader.
During spring camp, head coach Nick Rolovich put a premium on all single-digit number jerseys. So, despite leading the 'Bows to their first bowl win in a decade last season, and being named the Hawaii Bowl's Most Outstanding player as a sophomore, the number wasn't a guarantee in Brown's mind. He had to work for it like any other player on the team.
"I just remember in spring [Rolovich] telling me that I'd have to earn it," said Brown. "I just came out every day and just tried to prove the I would earn it. Then eventually... I think we were doing some community service, and they gave me the jersey with my name on it."
However, Rolovich believed long before spring camp even started that Brown earned his number. In fact, it was his five touchdown performance against Middle Tennessee in the 2016 Hawaii Bowl that cemented that belief in his mind. The waiting game was just a formality.
Now heading into the season as Hawaii's clear-cut starter, Rolovich says that if Brown has any weakness it's that at times he can push himself too hard.
"He wants to do so well for this state, for this team, for this program," said Rolovich. "I told him, 'Listen you've proven to the staff - and everyone else knows you can win games. Right now... it's your job to step up as that teacher'... He knows what could be."
"His expectations for himself and his standards are that he wants to be perfect," said quarterbacks coach, Craig Stutzmann. "That's the kind of kid you want on your team... He's always calling me about stuff that he's seen on film. Anytime I peek out on the field he's always outside my window. He's always out on the field throwing with some receivers. If he's not on the field, and he's not texting, he's in the weight room working out... If anything it's [us saying] 'Hey Dru, you got to rest your arm. Take a day off."
Stutzmann says Brown hasn't just established himself as a relentless worker on the field, but also as one of the team's most involved players when it comes to community service.
"Anytime Rolo, or any coach, or person in the community asks him to speak, or talk to kids, or do stuff, he's the first one to volunteer," said Stutzmann. "It's one of those things - it's not just between the lines, it's in the community, it's really being the face of the University of Hawaii football team that he's really stepped up and he's earned that respect."