|« Western Illinois QB raises bar with stellar senior campaign||Shaw puts GSU in right position »|
Healthy Brown provides spark for Southeast
A mix of all-star performers and unsung heroes have provided the leadership during Southeast Missouri State’s historic football season.
Senior tight end Bradley Brown falls into the second category, but Southeast coach Tony Samuel said Brown’s importance to the Redhawks’ success cannot be overlooked.
“He really has been one of those kind of guys,” Samuel said following Tuesday’s practice at Houck Stadium as the Redhawks prepared for the first playoff appearance in the program’s 104-year history. “He’s kind of an all-conference type player, but he doesn’t have the stats.
“He’s a great blocker. He does a lot of the dirty work that is very important. He’s been a big part of what we’ve been able to accomplish this year.”
The 6-foot-2, 245-pound Brown – that’s his listed weight although he said he’s actually around 260 – has suffered through an injury-plagued career since arriving at Southeast as a freshman in 2007.
But Brown has managed to remain relatively healthy this year, making nine starts and playing in all 11 games while serving as something akin to an additional member of Southeast’s highly regarded offensive line that had four members named first team all-Ohio Valley Conference.
“I hurt my ankle early but fortunately I didn’t miss any games,” said Brown, a native of the Philadelphia suburb of Plymouth Meeting, Pa.
Brown has aided the Redhawks’ five down linemen in paving the way for one of the nation’s top rushing attacks that features record-setting senior tailback Henry Harris.
Southeast ranks third nationally in rushing with 271.9 yards per game. The Redhawks also are tied for first in least sacks allowed with 0.45 a contest.
“I do whatever they ask me to do, make blocks, run routes,” Brown said. “I feel like I’m basically a part of the offensive line. I go to the offensive line meetings.”
And like Southeast’s official linemen, Brown takes pride in what Harris – owner of five single-season school records while ranking as the nation’s No. 2 rusher – has accomplished.
“Whenever somebody does something like that, you’re proud to be a part of it,” Brown said.
Brown, who missed four games last season and three games in 2008 due to various injuries, has not been a prolific receiver but has proved to be a valuable weapon when called upon.
Brown has five catches for 57 yards and a touchdown this season after nabbing three receptions for 84 yards a year ago. His best offensive campaign was as a sophomore in 2008 when he caught nine passes for 116 yards and a touchdown.
“He’s caught some big balls for us. He’s a very capable receiver,” Samuel said. “He’s had a nice career here. He’s one of those guys we would have loved to redshirt [as a freshman] but couldn’t.”
Brown, a criminal justice major who will graduate either this summer or fall, said he never envisioned attending college so far from home.
“But I had a friend from high school come out here the year before I did. He told the coaches about me and they saw film,” Brown said. “I really didn’t think it was a possibility to come to the Midwest.
“I had a lot of fun on my recruiting trip and I really liked the coaches.”
Brown, who said he has his sights set on eventually becoming a federal probation officer – “It’s going to take some time to get to that point,” he said – hasn’t regretted his college choice.
“It’s worked out real well,” Brown said.
Especially this year as the Redhawks’ success has stamped an exclamation point on Brown’s college career, along with those of the team’s other 20 seniors.
Southeast has put together one of the best seasons in program history and the fourth-best one-year turnaround in Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA) history after going 2-9 in 2009.
The Redhawks, ranked eighth and ninth in the two major FCS national polls, won their first OVC title one season after finishing last in the conference. They are 9-2 overall and 7-1 in OVC play.
“In previous seasons, the football team was kind of like the laughing stock, a butt of jokes,” Brown said. “It’s good to see it now, with all the excitement.
“I’m just happy to be a part of it. It’s an overwhelming feeling to be a part of something so special, going from 2-9 to 9-2.”
The Redhawks now have their sights set on playoff success after matching the school record for wins, equaling the 1937 and 1955 squads that went 9-0.
The Redhawks, who received a first-round bye for the 20-team FCS playoffs, visit Big Sky Conference co-champion Eastern Washington on Dec. 4.
The Eagles are ranked No. 1 in both major polls, but Brown said the Redhawks are undaunted.
“We’re really looking forward to the playoffs,” Brown said. “We feel like we’re going to make some noise.”
By Marty Mishow, Southeast Missourian