After rushing for 1,400 yards and 26 touchdowns as a sophomore, Seminole County’s Chris Brown, right, didn’t see the field except for one game as a junior after dislocating his hip in a preseason scrimmage. But now Brown is back, and he has the Indians rolling to a 7-1 record, ranked No. 1 by The Herald and No. 5 in the state coaches poll. (email@example.com)
DONALSONVILLE -- First they busted his hip.
Then they broke his heart.
That sums up Chris Brown's 2010 football season, a long dark tunnel with little light but plenty of hope.
"It felt like forever,'' said Brown, who suffered a hip injury in August during a scrimmage game, and sat out almost three months before finally returning to the field the last week of the regular season.
Getting to know Chris Brown: The Dynamite 'Half-Dozen' Q and A
New this year, a half-dozen questions for our Dynamite Dozen players about their likes off the football field:
Q: What's your favorite food?
A: "Fried chicken.''
Q: Favorite movie?
A: "Life, with Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence.''
Q: Who is your favorite entertainer (movie star, comedian, singer etc)?
A: "Lil' Wayne."
Q: Who is your favorite NFL player?
A: "Peyton Manning. He see the whole field, and he knows how to get his team right."
Q: If you were stranded on an island, who would you want to be with you?
A: "Nicki Minaj."
Q: Who is the person you owe everything to?
A: "My mom and dad and the community, because they kept me going and they said things my parents would say that kept me motivated."
"I prayed,'' he said. "I prayed silent prayers to myself, and that helped me. It helped keep me focused.''
Those quiet prayers and the long lonely season are far behind Brown, who has seen nothing but daylight since returning to the field for Seminole County High, where Brown and his teammates are having a dream season.
Brown came back for his senior season a new man, more determined, more confident and with a new resolve.
He said he owes it to himself, to his coach, to his teammates -- and to Seminole County itself.
"The people in the community really helped me,'' Brown said. "They said encouraging things to me. It showed me a lot of people really cared about me. Everywhere I went people were telling me to keep my head up and that I still had my senior season.''
And, oh, what a season.
Brown -- a shoe-in Herald Dynamite Dozen selection -- has been nominated for the Herald's Player of the Week award more than any player in Southwest Georgia and has helped lead Seminole to a perfect Region 1-A record, a No. 9 ranking in the Class A state poll and a No. 5 ranking in the state coaches poll. The Indians haven't lost since they dropped a last-minute heartbreaker to then-state-ranked Wesleyen on opening night in a game which Seminole was playing short-handed.
The entire team has been on fire and that's why people are buzzing about a run in the playoffs -- and nobody runs like Brown.
He has gained 1,170 yards on only 94 carries and rushed for 23 touchdowns with and offense that spreads the wealth between quarterback Antwan Buggs, fullback Barren Rambo, and lightning-quick Dee Virgin. They've all had big years.
Brown was the main running back when he was a sophomore and gained 1,400 yards and scored 26 TDs. He could have easily eclipsed that mark if he was given the ball 20 times a game.
"If we just lined up and gave the ball to Chris there's no telling how many yards he would gain,'' Seminole coach Alan Ingram said. "You can't even talk about his best play, because he makes so many great runs. He makes so many great plays, you just come to expect it. When he doesn't make a great run, that's when you're shocked. Every eight to 10 plays, he's going to make a great run.''
The kids talk about the 65-yard TD against Wesleyen when Brown took a high pitch, bobbled the ball and then regrouped. He took off to his right, then turned around, looped back to his left and bolted for the TD run.
"He went from one sideline to the other sideline,'' offensive lineman Desmond Wright recalled. "He makes so many great runs. He outruns everyone. He runs like a chicken with his head cut off.''
Brown has also caught eight passes for 199 yards and three TDs (that's an average of about 25 yards a catch), and he has six interceptions for 143 yards. Ingram said he would have 10, but three were called back because of penalties, and the 10th one -- well that's the one that Ingram bemoans the most.
"The ball hit the kid's belly and bounced up and Chris got it and was gone down the sideline, but they said the ball hit the ground. It never hit the ground,'' Ingram said. "That would have been a 99-yard touchdown.''
The kids call Brown "Tin Man," but it's not because he doesn't have a heart. He's got a big one, and runs with heart and desire.
Ironically, they call him Tin Man because of his rigid posture,. When Brown is on the run he tends to stand almost straight up, defying logic as one of the most fluid and elusive backs anyone has ever seen with a straight-laced posture that belongs in an English boarding school.
"When he breaks into the open, all of us coaches, we just say: 'He gone!' And all the kids just shout 'Let's ride.'' They say: Let's riiiiiiiiiiiiide! The Tin Man is gone! Let's ride,'' said Ingram, laughing at the scene he just described.
It's been that kind of season for Seminole.
And it has come full circle for Brown, who a year ago had his hopes crushed before the biggest game of the year in a moment more painful than the day he was injured -- a pain on the field he will never forget.
Brown was playing defense in the scrimmage and he was trying to sling the ball carrier to the ground when a second Seminole defender showed up to finish off the play. Brown got caught in the crossfire. He hit the ground, and had to be carried off to the ambulance on a stretcher with a dislocated hip.
"He didn't move,'' Ingram said. "They had a heck of a time getting the stretcher into the ambulance. It was hard to watch.''
Brown said the pain was unbearable.
"I couldn't move,'' Brown said. "I don't know what kind of pain that was. I never had pain like that before.''
But a year ago Brown was hit even harder. It was Miller County week, the annual Border Wars/Family Feud game between Seminole and Miller, arguably the best rivalry in Georgia. Brown had finally been cleared by the doctor to play and he couldn't wait to play again -- and to come back against Miller made it all the sweeter.
"I got up at 6 the day of the game,'' Brown said. "I couldn't sleep. I was on and off all night. I was so anxious to get back on the field. I was ready. This was Miller County. It made it a million times better to come back against Miller County.''
Brown was in uniform ready to take the field when he was told he couldn't play.
"It was hard to tell him,'' Ingram said. "It was about the hardest thing you can do. My principal and AD came to me, and the thing was that we had clearance from the doctor on the phone, but we didn't have anything in writing. My AD (Jesse McLeod) told me, 'If you lose the game, blame me.' "
"It was tough, about as tough as it gets. The kids were on a high. They knew Chris was coming back and going to play. When I told the kids it was hard on them. It was like there had been a death in the family. It was a hard shock to them, and it was like starting the game down by 14.''
Then kids do what they often do: They rise up by themselves.
Rambo stood in the middle of the room and announced: "We're going to play the game for Chris.''
They dedicated the Miller game to Brown, who took the hit and kept on moving himself.
"He was an emotional force on the sideline,'' Ingram said of Brown. "He was pumping them up all night, shouting, 'Let's go, let's go.' "
Seminole won the game, 29-7, after Miller had won the previous year, 19-6.
Brown got his paperwork and returned to the next week for the final regular-season game, and then made the biggest move on the field in spring practice.
"Chris has always been a happy-go-lucky guy who laughs and acts a fool, just a happy kid,'' Ingram said. "I went up to him at spring practice and told him that he had to get serious now. He needed to be serious about his senior.
"He's never been the same. From that point on, he's been as serious as the devil. He's more of a vocal leader and a leader by example. He has always been a hard worker, but he works even harder now. He's playing with more intensity. He has gone through adversity, and he's built on it and he's better. He's having a great season.''
Ingram then added: "I appreciated it more now. I just couldn't wait to get back on the field.''
It's a year later, and it's Miller County week again. But this time Brown and the Seminoles are better than ever.
"It's been a great season,'' Brown said. "It was frustrating last year, but now I appreciate it more now that I'm back on the field. And it feels great to be able to play against Miller -- great, wonderful ... I don't have a big word to describe it. It's sweet, sweeter than icing on a cake.''