It wasn't that long ago that Ravenwood alum Cole Brown was an All-State quarterback throwing passes to the likes of Van Jefferson and Chris Rowland on the football field.
Now Brown is powering through the hours upon hours of preps game tape to help the Michigan State Spartans identify candidates for their upcoming football recruiting classes as a Player Personnel Coordinator.
"It's definitely a grind, but it's been fun so far," Brown said of his new role.
Brown played on the 2014 Ravenwood team under Will Hester that was a runner-up in the state game to Maryville.
After graduation in 2015, he gave college football a go at Chattanooga. After a year of play, he decided to hang up his pads and take a different role with the program as a coaching intern for a sophomore semester.
It was there he made his connection with his current supervisor with Michigan State.
His junior year of college, Brown got on with Pro Football Focus, a leading football analyst brain trust that provides scouting for pro and college, in a part-time capacity.
After a season, Brown stood out and earned a full-time role with the website as a data analyst and on-air talent.
For a year, he worked in the Cincinnati offices at PFF. He said another year of doing professional football analysis made him want to get back around the sport in a more official capacity.
"I kind of want to get back into football, like part of team," he said.
Brown then went to East Tennessee State University after college graduation this past season (fall 2019) and spent a year on staff as a defensive quality control coach, which Brown said put him on the field and had him helping run the scout teams.
He got an opportunity at ETSU to learn under his dad, Bucs defensive backs coach Steve Brown.
It was just two months ago he got a call from his former boss at Chattanooga and an invitation to join Michigan State's scouting department, where he now works.
"He had just gotten the job, and asked if I was interested, and pretty much from there, it's history," Brown said.
So what goes into his new role with the Spartans?
"I pretty much help find talent to bring in and evaluate," he said. "It's pretty much like a scouting assistant role."
His day consists of watching a lot of tape for top prospects and writing up his evaluations in an effort to find the best players possible for the Spartans to consider. Database sites like 24/7 Sports and others help them cull together a good roster of players to watch.
"We pretty much watch every player we can," Brown said. "I will write them up, the position coach will write them up, and then it'll go to my boss, and he'll kind of have the final say on the kid."
Michigan State is on a different track for recruiting than some other programs, with Colorado's Mel Tucker quickly hired to replace longtime coach Mark Dantonio after the latter retired in February.
Most colleges go through the coaching change process in late December/early January. The move put the Spartans on an accelerated timeline to get their signing class ready.
"It's been unique for sure," Brown said of the process. "We got in kind of late...we had to catch up as quick as possible. But it's kind of helped a lot because you've learned to grind right as you started. It's been good to get in there, get into grind-mode, get everything done, and kind of play catch up and just see how to take off from here.
"I couldn't be more blessed with the opportunity, thankful for it."
The challenge for all professions right how is how to navigate the COVID-19 crisis, with Brown's field not exempt by any means.
"It's definitely not ideal," Brown says of coronavirus' affect on recruiting. "Just because, with all of this, kids aren't getting time on campus. They're not getting to meet the staff in person. So it's definitely not ideal."
He says that his department is trying to make the most out of the situation.
As far as his individual scouting process goes, Brown credits various sources that have helped him understand how to scout for college athletics.
"Playing with a guy like Van Jefferson and Chris Rowland definitely helps to see what the talent should look like at this level," Brown said, a recruit himself with self-taught lessons.
"And with my dad, just kind of growing up around him, he's been a coach all my life, so I've always kind of been around guys that have been at the Division 1 level or higher, so I've kind of known what to look for and what traits they have, and their work ethic."
Jefferson and Rowland, along with his brother and fellow Tennessee State standout Seth Rowland, are all vying for spots in the 2020 NFL Draft, set for late April.
Jefferson, a Florida alum, could go as high as the mid-rounds, while either Rowland could be a steal as a late draft pick or undrafted free agent.
"I'm happy for all three of those guys," he said. "They're all working their butt off and they're all showing they're hard workers. I couldn't be more happy for them. I know they've been working their butt off since I met them at Ravenwood as like a 15-, 16-year-old kid."
Brown reflects fondly of his days as a Raptor and still cheers them on from afar.
"I keep track with Ravenwood still," he said. "I was at the state game [in 2019], just watching it as a fan...I miss those days, and am thankful for them. I look forward to seeing Ravenwood continue to succeed."
He says current Raptors head coach Matt Daniels has done a great job at the helm of the program.
"He's kind of brought the swag back, and the confidence," Brown said of Daniels joining the team. "I see them playing with a whole new level of swagger. They've had a lot of good players come through, obviously, the past couple years, but I really enjoy watching what he's done. Definitely a proud alumni."
As far as the future goes, Brown wants to thrive where he is, but ultimately has eyes to the pro league.
"I just want to be the best at whatever role I'm in," Brown said. "That's kind of what I strive for, I try to be where my feet are. I just try to be the best at what I'm doing, take advantage of the opportunity that I'm in.
"But, down the road, I'd obviously love to be in the NFL one day as a scout. Until that happens, like I said, I'm just trying to be the best that I can at the current role I'm in and take advantage of it and work my butt off every single day."