Dominique Brown is flourishing at Louisville after adjusting to a number of twists and turns.
The former high school quarterback shifted to running back as a Cardinals sophomore and wound up as the team's No. 2 rusher. Then came last year's knee injury that caused Brown to miss the season when he was projected to be a major contributor.
Now, Brown has become the lead ball carrier for No. 19 Louisville (8-1, 4-1 American Athletic Conference). He enters Saturday night's critical league game against Houston (7-2, 4-1) as the Cardinals' leading rusher, with 513 yards and four touchdowns on 84 carries. He is averaging 6.1 yards per attempt.
"You have to stay humble," Brown said. "No matter what the circumstances, you'll have adversity hit you throughout your life."
Brown has worked through a running back rotation that includes Senorise Perry and former Auburn star Michael Dyer. Perry, who also sustained a knee injury late last season, is the Cardinals' No. 2 rusher with 482 yards and six TDs on 99 carries.
Dyer is third with 223 yards on 44 carries but the ground game has recently become a two-man show with Brown and Perry.
Brown's status as the featured back was solidified when he got his first start this season, against South Florida on Oct. 26. He followed with season bests of 18 carries for a career-high 125 yards in Louisville's 34-3 victory in Tampa.
Brown describes his style as a straight down, forward, physical back. He says the adjustment from passer to ball carrier has finally led to a comfort zone.
"It was hard for me from a physical aspect, just getting hit every day and stuff like that, and having more plays and running," he said. "After I got used to it, I pretty much felt like I found a home."
Brown showed another dimension against the Bulls when he caught six passes for 61 yards and a touchdown.
"Dom is not only a great pass protector but he also gets out in routes," Cardinals offensive coordinator Shawn Watson said. "He makes a lot of hay for us as a check down. He's proven to be really invaluable to us throughout the season."
Brown and the Cardinals will face a key AAC test when they host Houston.
In Houston, Louisville faces a team that can strip the ball and make interceptions. The Cougars lead the country in turnover margin (+21) and have 32 takeaways.
"We're going to run our normal plan," Brown said. "We're going to try to keep two hands on the ball and stuff like that. We're really stressing ball security. That will be a key."
Brown said the running back corps has a goal to produce the Cardinals' first 1,000-yard rusher since Bilal Powell ran for 1,405 yards in 2010. He and Perry will have to have big games to reach that plateau, but he's thankful to be in position to at least think about it.
"Hopefully, one guy can get the mark," he said. "We've got a lot of guys who are capable of doing it. Senorise is on pace to do it. We just have to have somebody get the carries and get over that hump."