INDIANAPOLIS — Everything’s coming up Chase Brown.

For starters, the Illinois running back can finally join the rest of the crowd in earning money from his name, image and likeness this season.

For legal reasons, the Canadian citizen was unable to do so last year. This summer he returned to his home and native land to sign the paperwork that makes it possible for him to cash in.

“There are a lot of rules when it comes to that,” Brown said. “We’re able to find ways. People can throw offers on there. But the way we go about doing business with them is just a little bit different. Not harder, just different.”

And no, he doesn’t have to be paid in loonies and toonies.

“I have an American bank account,” he said, “and any American checks, I put in.”

Brown is so fired up for the opportunity that even the prospect of paying taxes to different countries, states and provinces … excites him.

“This will be my first rodeo with that. I didn’t get to experience any of it last year,” Brown said. “It’ll be fun. It’ll be cool to see and learn about how that happens. Especially where I’m in a position where you can take advantage of these financial opportunities.”

Given the season Brown is capable of having for the Illini, those opportunities should be plentiful.

An ideal match of coach and player

When Brown transferred to Illinois in 2019, it was all about the opportunity to join his twin brother Sydney on the roster. Sydney signed with Lovie Smith’s Illini as a defensive back in 2018 while Chase was getting his career started at Western Michigan.

Little did Chase know that decision would eventually lead him to a coach who was perfectly suited to getting the best out of him.

Offensive line aficionado Bret Bielema arrived at Illinois in 2021, and made Brown his team’s battering ram. Brown was 5th in the B1G with 17 carries per game. He finished 3rd behind Michigan State’s Kenneth Walker III and Wisconsin’s Braelon Allen with 100.5 yards per game.

“The way we ran the ball last year was definitely old-school, smash-mouth football,” Brown said.

He loved every minute of it. But he loves what’s going to happen this fall even more.

Desperately needing more out of the passing game, Bielema hired UTSA offensive coordinator Barry Lunney this offseason. Bielema has plenty of familiarity with him. Lunney was his tight ends coach at Arkansas, and last year dialed up the plays in UTSA’s 37-30 win over the Illini.

Brown’s volume of carries may decrease, but he expects his average of 5.9 yards per carry to go up with opposing defenses no longer able to crowd the box.

“With our new coordinator, we’re able to spread out the ball and put the ball on the perimeter and put the ball in our playmakers’ hands. It’s a different look. You’re going to see a different Illini offense this year.

“My workload may go down a little bit. But lightening the box will open up more 1-on-1 opportunities for myself. I thrive [on those]. Those 1-on-1 opportunities are what I’m practicing on right now. I’m looking forward to all those matchups.”

Of the Big Ten’s top 5 rushers last season, Brown was the only running back in the group with fewer than 10 touchdowns. He had only 5 — the same amount as Iowa quarterback Spencer Petras.

That’s largely because there was little mystery as to what the Illini were doing inside the 10-yard line. If the offense does in games what it has in practice, Brown will be celebrating a whole lot more this season.

And he’s hoping those celebrations are noticed north of the border.

Spreading the American football gospel

Brown is proudly Canadian. His dad even had a 3-year stint in the Canadian Football League. But Chase Brown may love American football even more than the maple leaf.

Chase and Sydney moved to Florida before their junior year of high school in order to get experience playing the game and earn scholarships.

“Canadian football — you can’t even compare the two,” Chase said. “You’re only playing 3 downs and playing on a wider field. Receivers can run motions toward the line of scrimmage. There’s so many differences.

“I think I’m on the right side of the border. This is the best style to play football. The amount of opportunity that America brings to players and athletes at the Division I level is like no other.”

Brown’s football influences were, of course, American.

“I didn’t have much football knowledge, but I loved watching Adrian Peterson growing up,” Brown said. “I watched Alvin Kamara a lot when I was in high school. Just watch the way they’re able to make plays, it’s like no other.”

By the time Brown got to college, though, there was a fellow Canadian running back making waves in college football. In 2019, Oklahoma State’s Chuba Hubbard led the country with 2,094 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns.

It struck a chord.

“I was a freshman, and I wanted to do nothing less,” Brown said. “I wanted the same amount of yards.”

That’s a lofty goal. Last year Brown was just the 3rd player in Illinois history to record 2 200-yard games in a season — and still only made it halfway to Hubbard’s 2019 mark.

Whether or not he approaches 2,000 yards, Brown knows other aspiring Canadian players are watching. He wants to continue to show they can make it happen in the United States.

“That’s what is so cool about being in the position I’m in,” Brown said. “I’ve got guys reaching out saying ‘What should I do? How should I do this? How did you go about this?’ And I can enlighten them on ways to take advantage of these opportunities. It’s fun.”

For Chase Brown, the fun may just be getting started.