August 30, 2013 11:30:24 AM
The transformation is nearly complete.
After three years as a starter for the Columbus High School football team, the scales suggest Corey Brown hasn't changed all that much. But the numbers disguise the fact that although Brown hasn't changed several weight classes, he has moved into an even bigger role for the Falcons.
This season, the 6-foot-1, 255-pound Brown hopes to continue to be a dual threat for Columbus. Slated to play defensive end and tight end, Brown and Columbus will kick off the 2013 season at 7 tonight when they take on Mississippi High School Activities Association defending Class 4A state champion Noxubee County.
Columbus, West Point, and New Hope didn't play last week when nearly all of the rest of the state opened the campaign. Starkville started its return to Class 6A with a 17-0 victory against Noxubee County. Last year, Starkville won the MHSAA Class 5A state title.
Brown and the Falcons have their sights set on the postseason, too. A year ago, Columbus won seven games and returned to the playoffs for the first time since 2005. A loss to Madison Central in the first round whetted the team' appetite for more. Reclassification by the MHSAA moved Columbus into a new district with Starkville, Madison Central, Northwest Rankin, Clinton, Greenville, Murrah, and Warren Central.
"I just want to give the best effort I can to the team and try to lead them," Brown said. "I just want to take it all on. I know the coaches and my teammates expect things out of me."
Brown also has played defensive tackle and fullback at Columbus. He said he doesn't want to scream and fuss at his teammates and hopes to implement lessons he has learned from previous team leaders, including players like Damian Baker, who is now at Northwest Mississippi Community College, and current senior Trace Lee.
Columbus High football coach Tony Stanford said Brown has put a lot of time in in the weight room and understood that was a huge part of improving in the state's highest classification.
"He is one of the strongest players we have on the team," Stanford said. "That is a challenge we made to all of our players when we got here. We told them if they would get in the weight room we would get stronger and we would get where we could compete with the people we have to play.
"I feel we are competing. When we got here five years ago, we weren't competing, we were just out there messing around. Now we compete every ballgame. Sometimes we get beat. Sometimes we win. Most of the times, we are in the games."
Like many Falcons, Stanford said Brown has transformed himself in the weight room. Brown's development has been particularly important since he is a fixture on the Falcons' defense. His contributions to the defensive line last season played an integral part in helping Columbus get back to the Class 6A North State playoffs. With a lot of experience returning across the front line, Stanford is looking to Brown to be an even bigger contributor this season.
"He came in a big kid as a freshman and had a lot of speed," Stanford said. "He was able to beat people with his speed his first year. He realized as he went along he wasn't going to be able to continue to do that because people were learning about him. He realized he was going to have to get stronger and still use his speed plus strength. Now he is strong enough to take on double teams and get off blocks and make plays he couldn't make when he was a freshman and a sophomore.
"If he will get his attitude right and continue working like he always has, he can be one of the main leaders on the team because a lot of the young players look up to him. They have watched him play this will be for four years, and all of them want to be like him."
Stanford said a key for Brown will be showing that intensity and hard work every day because he is someone who can help set the tone on the team.
Brown, who weighted 240 pounds as a freshman, said he is trying to be someone who does that by example and more vocally. He said leading by example comes more naturally and that he is finding his voice for what he hopes is an impressive senior season.
"I try to encourage them and to tell them not to give up and try to get them to focus on what we want to be this year," Brown said.
Brown would like to follow in Baker's footsteps and play in college. He knows he has a lot more to learn and plenty of room to grow. That's why he believes he has made strides but feels the transformation is still taking place.
"When I was in ninth grade I didn't know the weight room was so important," Brown said. "talent can only take you so far. I grew up and realized (going into my junior year) you have to put a little extra in. It takes hard work to get where you want to be.
"My sophomore year, I was kind of scared to do some things. Learning the game, I realized you have to have confidence. I am very confident. I like taking on any challenge. I know it isn't going to be the easiest job, but I feel I can get it done."
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.