High School Sports

East Central star Tony Brown had his patience pay off in a big way Sunday

East Central running back Tony Brown committed to South Alabama on Sunday.
East Central running back Tony Brown committed to South Alabama on Sunday. amccoy@sunherald.com file

With National Signing Day fast approaching on Wednesday, it appeared that time was running out for East Central star running back Tony Brown to pick up his first FBS offer.

As he was preparing to make his official visit to South Alabama this weekend, there was no guarantee that the Jaguars would have a scholarship waiting on him. East Central head coach Seth Smith believed the odds were around 50-50.

Once he arrived on the Mobile campus on Friday, it didn’t take long for Brown to realize he had a good shot at that offer.

“It felt like I was treated like a very highly recruited player,” Brown said. “It felt like everything was revolving around me.”

South Alabama head coach Steve Campbell offered a scholarship to Brown Sunday morning and he committed on the spot.

Campbell, who is in his first year after being hired away from Central Arkansas, was in the process of meeting individually with visiting players when Brown was called into his office.

“He was just telling me he needed me over here and how much I can help this program,” Brown said. “He was excited.”

Brown’s family was there in the room when he got the good news.

“I was smiling the whole time,” he said. “I was just happy. It was a great feeling.”

Brown became the second player from East Central to commit to South Alabama this weekend. Senior offensive lineman Wyatt Green committed to the Jaguars on Monday morning during a visit to Hurley from Campbell.

“It’s extremely rewarding,” East Central coach Seth Smith said Sunday. “I’m running out of words. That means we’ll have three kids signing Division I scholarships on one team. It’s an accumulation of a lot of hard work, seeing it pay off. It epitomizes the season we’ve been fortunate to have.”

East Central senior tight end Brad Cumbest signed with Mississippi State in December.

East Central had its best season in program history in 2017, finishing 13-1 and winning the school’s first Class 4A South State title in football.

The only Division I offer that Brown held prior to Sunday was from Mississippi Valley State. He also holds scholarship offers from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College and East Mississippi CC.

The 5-foot-9, 187-pound Brown was named the 2017 Gatorade Player of the Year for Mississippi and the Sun Herald Player of the Year. He finished the year with 2,748 yards and 47 rushing touchdowns.

Brown believes the South Alabama offense will be a good fit for him.

“Coach Campbell is more an offensive line guy so he likes to run the ball,” Brown said. “Before he came here, they were more of a passing team. He’s changing it right now and he wants to start it off with me.”

Campbell, who was the head coach at MGCCC from 2004-13, was hired in December at South Alabama following a four-year stint at Central Arkansas. He had a record of 33-15 at UCA.

Patrick Magee: 228-896-2333, @Patrick_Magee