November 29, 2017 11:20:32 AM
JACKSON -- Ole Miss wide receiver A.J. Brown is well aware of the school's former star receiver Laquon Treadwell. One reason is because there's a picture on the wall of the program's practice facility that displays some of Treadwell's achievements.
Brown took notice.
"Every day in the summer I'd say, 'I'm sorry, but you're coming down,' " Brown said with a grin. "It made me work a lot harder."
The Ole Miss practice facility might at least need a picture of Brown alongside Treadwell's after the season he just completed. The 6-foot-1 sophomore from Starkville won the C Spire Conerly Trophy on Tuesday night, adding to his many accolades this season.
The Conerly, which is in its 22nd year, is given to Mississippi's top college football player. It is named for the late Charlie Conerly, the only football inductee in the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame who was an All-American at a Mississippi university, an NFL rookie of the year and NFL All-Pro member, and quarterbacked a team to a world championship.
Brown leads the Southeastern Conference with 1,252 yards receiving and 11 touchdowns. He also leads the SEC and ranks sixth nationally in receiving yards per game (104.3).
Brown had one of his best games in the Battle for the Golden Egg against Mississippi State, hauling in six passes for 167 yards and a touchdown in a 31-28 upset victory. He also broke Treadwell's single-season school record for yards receiving. Treadwell set the original mark in 2015 and now plays in the NFL with the Minnesota Vikings.
Brown, who went to Ole Miss despite going to high school just a few miles from Mississippi State's campus, knows more than most about the Conerly Trophy and how much it means in the state.
"Hard work paying off," Brown said. "I'm blessed to be put in this situation and give thanks to God. I was surrounded by a lot of good talent (on Tuesday). I was fortunate enough to win."
Brown's six 100-yard receiving games is tied for best in a single season, equaling Treadwell's mark in 2015. Brown finished third on the single-season record charts in receptions (75).
Brown is the seventh Rebel to win the award. He joins Stewart Patridge (1997), Deuce McAllister (1999), Eli Manning (2001, 2003), Patrick Willis (2006), Bo Wallace (2012), and Evan Engram (2016).
It also marks the first time Ole Miss has won the award in back-to-back seasons.
MSU quarterback Nick Fitzgerald, Southern Mississippi running back Ito Smith, and Alcorn State running back De'Lance Turner were the other finalists.
Fitzgerald came to Jackson for the Conerly Trophy ceremony despite suffering a dislocated right ankle in the Egg Bowl on Thursday. He had a cast over his leg and was on crutches, but he said he hopes to be back for spring practice.
The 6-foot-5, 230-pound Fitzgerald was the offensive catalyst for No. 24 MSU, which has an 8-4 record this season, including a 4-4 mark in the SEC. He threw 15 touchdowns passes and ran for 14 more.
Smith, a 5-foot-9, 195-pound senior, had another fantastic season as Southern Miss' main running back. He had 1,323 yards rushing and 13 touchdowns. He also caught 36 passes for 370 yards and two touchdowns.