AUSTIN, Texas -- Malcom Brown doesn't watch football in his spare time. Not that he has spare time.
He was asked this season which pro players he idolizes. He had no idea. He doesn't follow the NFL.
Brown wants to be the best defensive tackle in the nation. He might be. But that's just his job.
"I don't want to be all about football, you know what I mean?" Brown said after a Texas practice last week. "I come up here, I study film, I do what I have to for the game. But once I leave, I feel like if I study it too much, it'll get boring. I love football and I'm happy to be playing. God gave me good talent. But I have to find some kind of balance in between."
For a 6-foot-2, 320-pound lineman, he's showing remarkable balance. Brown has juggled being a student, a newlywed husband to his wife, Faith, and a father to their two young daughters throughout his All-America caliber season. Somehow, he's making it all look too easy.
While his girls are relying on him to provide for their new family, Charlie Strong relies on "Big Malcom" as the centerpiece of his defense, a consistently unstoppable force up the middle. But the football talk stops the moment he goes home.
• • •
Brown prefers watching cartoons. He grew up on "Dragon Ball Z" anime. Still enjoyed it in high school. Now his children do, too. Three-month-old Mayah lays on her belly and stares. Four-year-old Rayna, too energetic to sit still, stands and playfully tries to mimic the action. Just like Malcom did when he was a kid.
He stopped being a kid right around the time he met Faith Osborne on Texas' campus, in the summer of 2012 before freshman year. Back then, he jokes, "she wasn't giving me the time of day."
Their paths crossed a few more times. Eventually they started texting. By the middle of his freshman season, they began dating. Faith didn't want to unless he was serious. When she first told Brown she had a daughter from a previous relationship, he excitedly said: "Bring her around!"
He was ready for the responsibility. Brown doesn't go out. Texas coaches say they never have to worry about him getting in trouble. And he loves kids. Faith and Rayna were in good hands.
"Right when I got in their life," Brown said, "I tried to do my best."
Faith, a psychology major at UT, knows just how to straighten him out. She got on him once, while they were dating, for always wasting money the minute he got it. "You're not ready for this," he remembers her saying. He went back to his dorm and thought it over. She was right. She's usually right.
"No question who the head coach is in that house," Texas defensive line coach Chris Rumph said.
Malcom and Faith married on May 14, soon after spring practices wrapped up. They honeymooned on the beach in Galveston, Texas. Three months later, in the middle of fall camp, Brown took a rare day off. He was too worried he might miss the birth of Mayah, who arrived Aug. 15 at 8:36 a.m.
"He's always all smiles," Rumph said, "but he smiled a little bigger that day."
• • •
The next day, Brown got back to practice and back to proving he's perhaps the Big 12's best defensive player.
His team-high 6.5 sacks and 14 tackles for loss as a 3-technique tackle have come despite constant double teams and chop blocks. Under the tutelage of Texas' new staff, the junior has become a dominant force against the run and pass.
"The way he's playing, it's amazing," Strong said. "It's fun to watch."
Defensive coordinator Vance Bedford put it another way: "I think he's the best player in this conference, period."
When Brown has parenting questions, he turns to Rumph, who likes to pepper in life lessons with his film sessions. Strong, meanwhile, likes to lovingly pepper Brown with taunts and teases, like asking "You got that?" after a sack. How much time has he spent in the coaches' offices this season? Enough that Rumph can tell it's Malcom by the knock on his door.
How does he find time for it all? Brown has never led a more demanding life than right now. His two worlds collide constantly. After the season opener against North Texas, he was up all night with a crying Mayah. Might've slept two hours. On road trips, Brown is constantly texting Faith and crossing his fingers that their daughters behave.
"He's such a mature young fella. Nothing really fazes him," cornerback Quandre Diggs said. "He has something he's competing for and that makes him work harder. He wants to succeed for his family."
Rayna has made it to a few Texas home games. She might not get it just yet. Brown laughs when recalling the time she asked her parents: "Daddy play football?"
"They know I'm on TV," Brown says with a grin, "but they don't know how good I'm playing."
• • •
Rayna, now in pre-kindergarten, knows her numbers. Brown is teaching her the alphabet before bedtime. Mayah just started sleeping through the night. Won't be long before she's crawling. For now, she likes to sit in her daddy's lap and stick out her tongue at him.
He's getting into cooking -- Brown watches Food Network when the cartoons aren't on -- and spending far too much time cleaning. He gets out of class by 10 a.m. three days a week just to buy extra time at the house. On the days he feels overwhelmed, he leans on Faith.
"Like people always say, she's my better half," Brown said. "She makes me laugh when I'm down. Even when I have a bad game -- I mean, this year, I really haven't had any -- she's always there for support. Always."
She'll support whatever he decides to do next. Brown is expected to go pro early if he gets a first- or second-round draft projection. His Thanksgiving home game against TCU could be his last.
Can you blame him? The Browns are college students without paying jobs. They have two young mouths to feed and an apartment that isn't getting any bigger.
"We're not rich or anything, but we're making it," Malcom said. "I want to give them everything."
Someday soon, he will. But Brown refuses to complain. He's having the best season of his life. He has a loving wife. He has happy, healthy children.
And he has to go. Practice ended an hour ago. He's done thinking about football.
It's time to pick up the girls from their babysitter. Time to go home.