He’s one of the best DFW high school football players ever. Now he’s starring at Ohio State

Former Kennedale All-American linebacker Baron Browning is now a starting linebacker for Ohio State as a sophomore. The Buckeyes play TCU at AT&T Stadium on Saturday night.
Former Kennedale All-American linebacker Baron Browning is now a starting linebacker for Ohio State as a sophomore. The Buckeyes play TCU at AT&T Stadium on Saturday night. Special to the Star-Telegram

Ohio State linebacker Baron Browning is returning to his hometown with a simple mindset this weekend.

“I’m looking forward to getting to 3-0 and hopefully getting some Whataburger after the game,” said Browning, who was an All-American linebacker at Kennedale before signing with Ohio State.

But Browning knows his fourth-ranked Buckeyes will have their work cut out against No. 15 TCU on Saturday night at AT&T Stadium. He is very familiar with the Frogs.

On Saturday, the TCU Horned Frogs will take on the Ohio State Buckeyes in football for the first time since 1973. Here's what you should know before the upcoming match-up.

Browning’s father, Barry Sr., played defensive back for TCU in the late 1990s, including one season under then-assistant Gary Patterson. And Browning is close friends with TCU quarterback Shawn Robinson.

Browning and Robinson were two highly-touted local players in the Class of 2017, and were together at a number of camps in their high school days.

“We talk a lot … play a lot of PlayStation 4 together,” Browning said, chuckling. “That’s my boy.”

They’ll be on opposite sidelines come Saturday, though, and each is surely looking forward to facing each other. These are two budding stars in the college football world, earning starting jobs at key spots as sophomores.

Browning climbed up the depth chart in a crowded linebacker room at Ohio State, and has five tackles through the first two games. And Robinson beat out Michael Collins for the quarterback job at TCU, and has flashed early on.

Browning sees both he and Robinson as rising players in the college game.

“Oh, yeah,” Browning said.

Asked about Robinson’s future, Browning said: “He’s just one of those top dual threat quarterbacks. He’s got a strong arm. He can throw. He can run. He can do it all.

“We can’t take our eyes off him on Saturday. We’ve got to keep him on our radar because not only can he pass, he can run, so they can do some zone read stuff and some QB runs, so we can’t take our eyes off him. We’ve got to be alert at all times and know where he’s at at all times.”

Family affair

Barry Browning Sr. isn’t going to be “torn” when TCU and Ohio State meet on Saturday night. As he put it, “I love both of them.”

Barry Sr. played defensive back in the late 1990s at TCU after a standout high school career at Everman. He’s still loyal to the Frogs and Patterson, who coached Browning his final season in 1998.

“Barry was a strong safety for us,” Patterson recalled earlier this week. “Barry was really tough. A tough player.”

Said Barry Sr.: “Coach Patterson is a good guy, a good person. He’s definitely going to have his team ready to play this weekend. You can make sure of that. I always knew he’d be a head coach because of his work ethic. Coach P, man, he gave you everything he had.”

But Barry Sr. never pushed his son to TCU. He handled it much like the recruitment process for his older son, former Everman standout Barry Browning Jr., who chose Stanford.

TCU recruited Baron heavily and he spent a lot of time on campus, but it never came to fruition. Instead, Barry Sr. said, Ohio State and Alabama were the final two for Baron, who ranked as the No. 11 overall prospect in the Class of 2017.

“I let him pick the school because he was going to be the one who had to go there,” Barry Sr. said. “TCU did a great job recruiting him – coach Patterson and coach [Jeremy] Modkins and coach [Zarnell] Fitch. It could’ve gone any way, didn’t anyone know where he was going until the very last minute.

“But I’m very proud of him and the main thing is he’s remained humble. We’re a football family, but when he comes home, he doesn’t really talk football. Baron is just Baron. He cuts up. He’s a character. But he’s really humble.”

Football seems to have come full circle for the Browning family, especially this weekend. Baron is facing his dad’s former school at a football mecca in the family’s backyard. Oh, and we haven’t mentioned the fact that Barry Sr. and Baron had the same high school coach.

Richard Barrett coached Barry Sr. at Everman in the early 1990s, and Baron at Kennedale from 2013-16.

“They’re both very aggressive players,” Barrett said. “I always told Baron, ‘Your dad was something else now.’ I mean, that guy was about 5-foot-10, 200 pounds and such a ferocious hitter. He played really physically and was one heckuva player. He had all kinds of records with weight lifting.

“But Baron is strong too. He dead-lifted 630 pounds in high school. There are a lot of similarities between the two.”

Game Day

Ohio State has been entrenched in controversy this season. Coach Urban Meyer won’t be on the sidelines Saturday, as it’s the final game of his three-game suspension for how he handled domestic violence allegations against since-fired assistant coach Zach Smith.

But that scandal hasn’t seemed to have a negative effect on the field. Instead, as Patterson mentioned earlier this week, it might’ve actually inspired the Buckeyes more than anything.

Patterson described Ohio State as already being in “midseason form.”

Baron didn’t disagree with that assessment after Ohio State has cruised to wins over Oregon State and Rutgers.

“With everything that happened, with all that adversity, it did nothing but bring us closer and make our brotherhood stronger,” Baron said. “So we’re ready to go out and play this weekend.”

The entire Browning family is going to be ready for it. It’s a family reunion-esque weekend for them. Family was coming in from the Houston area as early as Wednesday.

“Everybody’s fired up,” Barry Sr. said. “Baron’s fired up. A lot of family and friends that don’t really get to see him play are coming out to support him. Baron is going to have a lot of family and friends rooting for him.

“We’re ready to see him play.”

This will mark the second time Baron has played at AT&T Stadium. Ohio State defeated USC in the Cotton Bowl in the stadium last season, but Baron played mostly special teams.

He’s now moved into a starting role and, quite possibly, a starring role come Saturday night.

“I didn’t even know he was starting until the roster came out,” Barry Sr. said, smiling. “He never mentioned it. I saw the roster and said, ‘You’re starting?’ He said, ‘Yeah.’ They’ve got a lot of competition at linebacker and he’s still got some things to work on. But it’s all going to come together for him soon.”

Said Barrett, his high school coach: “No stage was ever too big for him. Baron always handled it well and never let the highs get too high or the lows be too low. He stayed even keel.

“It’s going to be a festive atmosphere on Saturday night and he’s going to do well. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if he makes some really, really big plays.”

Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins has impressed early on this season. TCU knows it'll have its hands full against Haskins and the Buckeyes offense on Saturday night at AT&T Stadium.

Related stories from Fort Worth Star Telegram