CALIFORNIA – He never wilts under the brightest lights.
That’s what makes Garry Brown so special to California University’s football team.
The 6-1, 200-pound senior wide receiver has 81 receptions in 11 games for 1,348 yards and 20 touchdowns. He averages 112 yards receiving per game and also returns punts and kickoffs.
He hates to be off the field, and doesn’t mind letting others know he is always ready when his number is called.
But the numbers that matter most are 11 and 0. That’s Cal’s record and those numbers have the Vulcans in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Division II playoffs.
“He comes up big in every game for us,” said Cal first-year head coach Gary Dunn. “He’s the best receiver I ever coached. He’s exhausting on the sideline because he wants the ball so much but that’s just him. He doesn’t care if he gets it as long as we’re moving the football. I couldn’t be happier for him.”
Brown’s desire and competitive spirit are admired by his teammates. They know that without him, these days might be spent hunkering down for winter on campus rather than preparing for Saturday’s playoff game against Shepherd University in this, Cal’s first postseason appearance since 2011.
Brown will prepare the same way, scouting the coverage schemes rather than the defender tendencies.
“I want to know if they are playing man or what the coverage is,” said Brown. “I don’t worry about the man. I’m very confident that when the ball is up in the air, I’m going to come down with it every time.”
And don’t ask him his opinions on field-goal attempts.
“I hate them,” he said. “I want to score so much. I want to score; I want anyone to score. If we’re winning, then I’m fine.”
Consider these standout performances in the Vulcans’ most crucial games:
• Week 4: Slippery Rock, 6 receptions, 136 yards, 2 touchdowns in a 52-26 victory.
• Week 5: Indiana, 6 receptions, 116 yards in a 31-28 victory.
• Week 10: Kutztown, 9 receptions, 102 yards, 2 touchdowns in a 49-7 PSAC State Game victory.
• Week 12: Indiana, 11 receptions, 129 yards, 2 touchdowns in a 44-23 NCAA Division II playoff victory.
Brown entered the Indiana game ranked 3rd in Division II in touchdowns, 6th in receiving yards per game, 10th in receiving yards and 13th in receptions per game.
“I’ve grown since this summer. I’ve grown since then by working hard,” Brown said. “I feel like I can be the best. I got faster, stronger and I got my lungs in better condition.”
Brown’s presence on the field draws the attention of the defense. That opens up alleys for others. Tom Greene has 47 receptions for 637 yards and Luke Smorey has 32 catches for 414 yards. Both have six touchdowns.
The other beneficiary is quarterback Michael Keir, who stepped into the starting spot this season and completed 66 percent of his passes for 2,953 yards and 39 touchdowns. He has only 11 interceptions on 323 attempts.
“I trust him,” said Keir of Brown. “He’s a great player and great players make great plays in big games. We built that trust over the offseason.”
And it’s bearing fruit now.