Saint Francis was picked by the leagues coaches to win the Mid-States Football Association Mideast League championship, and senior defensive back Taylor Brown is a big reason why.
The margin in the voting was slim, 46-45, over defending NAIA champion Marian, which ended the Cougars season last year in the tournament quarterfinals. Saint Francis returns 13 starters, including Brown, a MSFA first-team and All-American selection at safety.
Brown has had a steady development in his Saint Francis career.
I started off on special teams freshman year, worked my way up to second string sophomore year, Brown said. When Eric Humphrey went down, I came in and played the rest of the season. I just went up there my junior year as a starter and had a good season, got first-team all-conference, then All-American. Its progressively getting better each year.
The progression his junior year included a school-record 19 solo tackles against Taylor. Last year, Brown had 104 tackles and a team-high 49 solos.
The postseason recognition came as a surprise to Brown.
Honestly, I wasnt even thinking about it, he said. I was just out there trying to win some games. I went out there and just gave my all so thats pretty much how it was each game, and the award just kind of came with the hard work.
Browns hard work has not been overlooked as Cougars coach Kevin Donley has seen the progression for the past three years.
Taylors work ethic is great, Donley said. You have to be physically gifted, intelligent, in control of your life, socially and academically, and have to balance all the pressure to achieve All-American status.
Hes extremely coachable and well-respected, a coachs dream.
This seasons expectations are set high for Brown.
Hes picked up where he left off last season, Donley said. Hes going to continue to improve.
I have to set my standards higher for this season, he said. I cant live off of what happened last year. I have to make new efforts to be better and better each day out there.
Brown credits the teams early lofty rankings on the bond the team has formed in preseason training.
One thing that I think sets us apart from the rest of the conference is the sense of family, the bonds, and the strong team leaderships, he said.
It really brings the team together.
And Browns hard work doesnt end on the field. He spends three days a week outside of practice lifting and conditioning and includes baseball training when his schedule allows.
Obviously football is my priority, he said. I try to balance it out. I didnt play last year because I tore my labrum, but I intend to play again this year.
Saint Francis opens its season at No. 15 William Penn on Sept. 14.