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What Brown can do

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Zach Brown was a wrestling and track champion in high school, but he's a football player through and through.

The North Carolina linebacker's unique skill set allows him to pin a burly back to the turf or track down a wide receiver on the loose with equal ease.

But none of it has come easily for Brown, who approaches football with a warrior's mentality that should serve him well throughout the NFL draft process.

"Every time I've stepped on the field since high school, it's been a job interview," Brown said. "I've had to compete for my position, with the next guy right there. It's all about competing."

And Brown is competitive as they come, a drive that's helped him overcome some challenging circumstances.

"I'm originally from South Carolina, but I moved up to Maryland late in middle school," Brown explained. "I lived with my dad for my ninth-grade year, and then I lived with my uncle and my high school coach, so they kind of took on a big part in my life."

His football coach at Wilde Lake High School, Doug DuVall, saw something in Brown, something that truly began to flourish his senior year.

That year, Brown ran for more than 1,500 yards as a running back in the fall, went undefeated as a wrestler in the winter and won state championships in the 100- and 200-meter dashes come spring.

"Coach DuVall means a lot to me," Brown said. "My sophomore year, he said, 'You're going to be a good player one day.' He was always telling me to not get down after losses. He had me striving to be the best."

Brown attended Hargrave Military Academy for a year after high school, then headed to North Carolina to write his latest chapter. Track was still a part of the equation early on – he set the school record for the indoor 60-meter dash as a sophomore – but it's been all about making his mark in football ever since.

In 2010, despite starting just five games, he ranked second on the team with 72 tackles. The Tar Heels rarely took him off the field last season, when he led the team with 105 tackles – including 13.5 tackles for loss – and added three interceptions and three forced fumbles.

The numbers are the result of a unique physical specimen. Brown is a speedster – ranking second at the NFL Scouting Combine among linebackers with a 4.5 in the 40 – but he also possesses plenty of power, as evidenced by his wrestling success.

"My speed helps a lot because I can cover tight ends, and that just makes your defense so much better," Brown said. "Then I can overpower certain people, like offensive linemen. I'm not as weak as they think I am.

"A lot of linebackers can't do all that, so it sets me apart."

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Brown considers an outside linebacker spot in a 4-3 defense - the scheme the Tar Heels employed - to be his best fit but far from his only fit in the NFL. He played some middle linebacker in the 4-3 and also appears capable of playing any number of spots in a 3-4.

"I'm just going to keep working," Brown said. "Working on fundamentals, working on my technique, studying film - just getting better at the game."

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