Philadelphia, PA – It really is life in the fast lane with Bryant University running back Jordan Brown.
He spent the first 11 years of his life in Indianapolis. Now 21, he has attended the Indianapolis 500 every year since he was 6.
Vroom, vroom ...
Brown, who has been clocked in 4.47 seconds in the 40-yard dash, saves the football field for his favorite track.
As a junior last year, the 5-foot-9, 185-pound Brown had the most carries (329) and rushing yards (1,815), the highest rushing average (165 yards per game), the second-highest all-purpose yard average (227.3) and the third-highest touchdown total (22), in the Football Championship Subdivision.
However, the Northeast Conference Offensive Player of the Year and third-team All-America was not recognized among the official FCS statistical leaders because Bryant was in its final season as a provisional school that was reclassifying from Division II to the FCS.
This year, the Bulldogs are eligible for both the NEC championship and FCS playoffs. Brown will lead their cause, trying to build on his ninth-place finish in the Walter Payton Award balloting.
In Five-a-Side - In the FCS Huddle's monthly feature of "five questions, five answers" with an influential person in the FCS - Brown discusses the season ahead, as well as the possibility of a Payton Award winner coming from a smaller FCS conference.
Let's kick off:
TSN: It would seem hard for you to improve on your junior season individually. How possible is this to you?
JB: It's very possible. I've been thinking about it ever since the last game of the season was over. We lost to Central (Connecticut State), 42-21. It was in front of our home crowd, so it was kind of embarrassing, and I didn't put out my best individual performance as well. So it was kind of an embarrassing performance on both sides, team-wise and individual-wise.
I was very, very happy with my accomplishments, but I'm the kind of person who (thinks) there's always room for improvement. I've been wanting to go over 2,000 yards ever since I came into college. And I thought last year was going to be the year.
This year, our team is going to be excellent. I think that with the amount of firepower that we have and the ability to improve, and the fact that we can go to the playoffs this year, is going to enhance our team's motivation. My offensive line, they're going to work. I'm so happy that I have guys like them around me to protect me and protect our team and open those holes. I'm just going to run right through 'em and see what happens after that.
TSN: What parts of your game have you concentrated on this offseason?
JB: I've concentrated on, obviously, my blocking. As a running back, you have to be able to pick up blitzes and be able to not only pick them up, but stop them. I've always worked on that, that's always been a part of my game that I've always wanted to emphasize. Let's be honest, I want to make it to the NFL and (blocking) is one thing that you can separate yourself with, if you can block.
I've also worked on catching the ball. I can catch very well out of the backfield from the start, but I've been working on that a lot. I've worked on my conditioning because last year I did not expect to take those many carries. So I'm just preparing my body just in case it does happen again - I'm ready to go.
I've also practiced on just knowing the offense a little bit more - the ins and outs, what defenses will do - trying to get a head start on Marist, since that's our first game, as best as possible. I'm trying to prepare myself off the field as much as on.
TSN: Last year, you were not eligible for the FCS rushing title considering Bryant was finishing its transitional stage. How did that affect you?
JB: It really didn't affect me. I paid attention to it. I mean, my team and my coaches and the people that played against us, they knew the deal. So they knew that I was the leading rusher in the nation. I know when the Walter Payton were getting voted for last year, I don't think a lot (voters) knew that since my name wasn't up there (in the national leaders) - they thought (Indiana State's) Shakir Bell was the leader. Taking no credit from him, he's a great running back, a great, great player. I respect him, I checked up on him, I've seen him play on some highlights. I respect his talent; he's a very, very good player. So is everybody on that list.
It really didn't affect me, it just pushed me to go harder. I told myself I'm the biggest-kept secret around the league since nobody knew me. So (this) year, I'll come on the scene with a vengeance, come on the scene with something to prove.
TSN: Walter Payton Award winners usually come from the larger FCS conferences. What will have to happen for you to sway those voters' opinions?
JB: Our team has to win, we've got to win. We cannot go 5-6, 6-5, 7-4, we have to win, we have to make a conference run, we have to clinch a berth into the (FCS) playoffs - it's imperative. Me individually-wise, I have to perform every game. I can't have a weak game, a losing game, no fumbles, I can't have anything that goes against my resume. I have to perform every game and I have to help my team win 24/7.
TSN: What tells you about this year's team that Bryant will be in the NEC title race?
JB: It's a feeling around here that we can go to the playoffs, that's the main thing I'm trying to emphasize. My class is the first class that's going to have a chance to be eligible. It's never been done before, so we want to make history for one. Two, my whole class and my whole team have been working all winter. And that's our No. 1 goal. We've been working as a team.
I want Bryant to be on the map because Bryant is coming up in the sports world as well as in the academic world.