Hoops Too, Shane?
TA Grad Might Play Two Sports At Ferrum
HARRISONBURG – Shane Brown was considering buying a throwback Raiders jersey of his favorite player Bo Jackson, who famously played both professional football and baseball at an all-star level. Turning 19 in December, Brown thought it would be a good birthday gift.
Appropriate, too, because by then, the Turner Ashby High School graduate will have made a more important decision – whether to try out for basketball at Ferrum College.
After starring for the Knights in football and basketball, Brown has begun a running back competition with fellow freshman Jacquan Martin and others during football practice with the Division III Panthers. Playing time and how Brown handles his academic workload may determine whether he pursues hoops.
“I was going to wait and see how the class work part of it is,” said Brown, who will begin general education classes on Sept. 1. “… I just love playing basketball and football. I would like to continue both in college. [Physically], it would definitely be a challenge, but I think I could handle it.”
Brown ran for 1,553 yards on 181 carries with 16 touchdowns in TA’s wing-T offense last season on a 3-7 team. Then, he led the Knights’ basketball team to a 15-9 record with 18.9 points per game, including his 1,000th career point.
If Brown’s classes go well, he said his decision to play both sports – which he’s equally passionate about – could come down to football playing time. The 6-foot-1, 190-pounder said more time on the gridiron would make basketball less likely, because his body would be worn down.
Brown might not even have to beat out Martin to earn playing time. Ferrum fourth-year coach Dave Harper said both have “blended in” as running backs and remained patient while learning the Panthers’ spread-option offense.
Martin (6-0, 195) starred at South Stokes in Walnut Cove, North Carolina. He ran for 1,336 yards and 14 TDs on 172 carries as a senior, according to maxpreps.com. Martin totaled just over 6,000 career yards and scored 84 TDs as a four-year letterman.
“We’ve got two returners in that spot. We moved one,” Harper said. “We have two really good freshmen, Shane being one of them. The other one is from North Carolina [Martin] and is extremely talented. I feel like [Brown will] play some. He has to learn the system. That’s the biggest challenge. It’s a lot of learning involved in a very short time, but he should definitely help us this year without a doubt.”
Harper said Ferrum’s football program has had dual-sport athletes in the past. Though the Panthers didn’t have one last year to his knowledge, they did in 2011 in Harper’s first season as head coach.
“Marcus Mayo, from Rockbridge County, played basketball and football,” Harper said. “He was all-conference in both. He did it his freshman year. He did it for all four years.”
That doesn’t mean it’s easy.
In Mayo’s case, he played quarterback and was named the USA South Offensive Player of the Year in 2011 as a senior. Can Brown be the next Mayo in terms of playing both sports at Ferrum? Harper said it’s certainly do-able, but it comes with more challenges than say an athlete playing football and baseball.
“There’s such an overlap in basketball and football in college,” Harper said. “Basketball starts in college – what? – early October? So, you’re talking about a month of him not being out there. The next concern is academics. Basketball travels a lot more than football. … It’s a rough road, but an athlete can do it for sure.”
Brown said he expects to make a decision midway through the football season. Ferrum opens its 2014 slate on Sept. 6 at home against Emory & Henry, followed by a road game in Winchester on Sept. 20 at Shenandoah University.
In the meantime, Brown will continue to adjust to college life in Ferrum. He moved in a week ago with roommate Nathan Beasley, a first-team All-Valley District defensive lineman at Fort Defiance who’s competing at offensive guard with the Panthers.
Brown and Beasley haven’t been teammates since Little League, before Brown transferred from Fort Defiance’s school system to TA to get a fresh start after not taking his grades seriously. Brown, who also considered Shenandoah, said academics ultimately cost him a chance to play college football at a higher level.
“Glenville State was going to give me money to go there if I scored higher on my test scores, but I didn’t score high enough,” Brown said of the Division II program.
But Brown is more than excited for the chance to play football at Ferrum, where fast-paced practices have been an eye-opener. So has the massiveness of the offensive linemen when compared to TA’s.
“I can say they’re definitely a lot bigger,” Brown said with a laugh.
As for the friendly position battle with Martin?
“There’s great athletes in the Valley, of course, but seeing people from different states and stuff, it’s really different competition,” Brown said. “People played like different styles. Martin has really good vision and his cutback is really nice. He’s a good player. He’s a great player actually.
“… I feel like we’ll both contribute as much as we can. If I can even get on the field as a freshman, that’s an honor to me.”