COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) -- Had Colin Brown taken a different path, he might be blocking basketball shots rather than pass rushers.
As a freshman, Brown had an offer to play Division III basketball but instead chose to walk on as an offensive lineman at Missouri.
Four years later, Brown's decision looks like it was a good one. Brown has been a part of an offensive line for the No. 5 ranked Missouri Tigers that, so far, is averaging 204 yards rushing a game -- a 30-yard improvement from last season's total.
He is a returning All-Big 12 right tackle and, in the words of quarterback Chase Daniel, one of the "cornerstones of the offensive line."
"He is doing a great job leading those guys," Daniel said. "His side is very important, and I take pride in their blocking, and when you have a brick wall like that guy on that side, it's good."
Brown was an All-State center at Braymer High School and a McDonald's All-American nominee. Basketball was his first priority while football was something that he did to pass time until basketball started up again.
But when the offers from NAIA schools such as William Jewell and Graceland University in Iowa weren't being followed up, Brown mulled over his next move. Football became more appealing, for a player who was an All-Conference tight end and defensive tackle in high school.
"It was getting late, and I was getting worried because I wasn't hearing anything from the coaches," Brown said. His father talked him into giving football a try.
"About a week before came here, I talked to my dad and asked him what I was going to do if I came down here and was the absolute worst player," Brown said. "It was something I thought might last a season or two because I thought it was totally over my head, and I wouldn't have a chance to be good enough to compete."
Physically, Brown is an imposing figure, at 6'8" and 325 pounds.
"He looked good walking off the bus and was real intimidating," coach Gary Pinkel said. "But he kept getting better, going from a guy we thought could be a good back-up to someone we thought could start and be a high-level player."
Brown had to make some changes in his preparation and practice habits.
"It took a lot of hard work because when I got here I was really behind," Brown said. But he began to improve.
Brown's size and athleticism allowed coaches to put him all along the offensive line until they found the right spot for him. After redshirting as a true freshman, Brown earned a scholarship and played some left guard. He also backed up former Tiger Adam Spieker at center for a season.
He eventually landed at right tackle and started all 14 games in 2007, earning the J. Ed "Brick" Travis Award, as the team's top interior lineman among his other postseason conference accolades.
While Brown once thought he wouldn't last long in the program, it's now hard for him to envision himself anywhere else.
"There's no telling what else I would be doing right now," Brown said. "Last year during two-a-days, I didn't think I was even going to get the chance to play, but now this is totally beyond anything I could have ever imagined."
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)