By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
RICHLANDS, Va. —
Need a wide receiver or quarterback? Call Ben Brown. Need a cornerback or safety, a kicker, punter or return specialist, or even a prayer partner? Call Ben Brown.
Need a bus driver ... call someone else. He’s too busy playing football, or whatever other season is in session.
“He does everything for us, but drive the bus,” Richlands head coach Greg Mance said. “He is special.”
Playing both ways is nothing unusual in high school football, but the 6-foot-1, 190-pound senior is the definition of versatility for the Blue Tornado.
“I enjoy being on the field,” said Brown, whose Blue Tornado will host Virginia High in a Group 2A West second playoff game on Friday. “I love it, it is a lot better than just standing and watching. It is tough though, it takes its toll on the body, it is hard to do.”
Mance isn’t sure where Brown would fit best. How about ... anywhere and everywhere.
“It would be hard to put your thumb on it,” he said. “He would make a great quarterback, he is a great receiver, he can play safety on defense, he can play corner on defense, he can kick, he can place-kick, he can punt.
“You could play him anywhere you want to throw him with the exception of offensive and defensive line and the kid is going excel at it.”
A three-year starter at Richlands, Brown has followed admirably in the large footsteps of his brother, Timmy Brown, who was a four-year contributor for the Blue Tornado in three sports. He graduated in 2004, and is now a pastor in Lebanon.
“When I first got to high school in the ninth grade I was like ‘Timmy Brown’s brother’,” Brown said. “I was expected to live up to that status, I don’t know if I have quite done that, but I have done my best to live up to those expectations.
“I have kind of compared myself to him because he had so many achievements in every sport, football, basketball and baseball. I have kind of compared myself to his accomplishments to get up to his status.”
He has done just fine, no matter what the position or sport, and does it in his own way, serving as a captain and true spiritual leader for the Blues, which can be a challenge in a football locker room.
“It is tough, I have grown up in a Christian home. Timmy was the same way, my brother (C.P.) is a full-time missionary and my family does a lot in church,” Brown said. “I am trying to be a good witness with these guys, but it is tough to be in a locker room setting and bad language and all this stuff going on.
“Sometimes you have to train yourself not to hear those words so they don’t become habit to say. It is a challenge to stay pure.”
Brown is one of several siblings having an impact in Richlands athletics.
Another brother, Jono, was a standout in basketball and his sister, Bethany, has played and coached several sports at Richlands. His oldest brother, C.P., recently completed a three-year stint as a missionary in Africa, and his father, Ron, broadcasts Blue Tornado athletics on local radio.
He also has a younger brother, Daniel, who is an eighth grader at Richlands.
“He is just one of those kids, he falls in the old family tree, just a great athlete, a smart kid,” Mance said. “We are blessed to have Benny because Benny is one of those kids, when you are around Benny Brown it makes you a better person.”
Brown has made Richlands a better football team, having solidified two positions that concerned Mance, both at receiver and secondary.
“Defensively, he has got five interceptions this year, and he has done just a tremendous job over there at wide receiver,” Mance said.
Brown, who threw five touchdown passes in a game last season at Tazewell, started this season as a backup to Gray Baker at quarterback. However, Baker was lost for the season at Honaker, and when River Michaels emerged as his replacement, Brown was able to catch passes instead of throwing them.
He has done it well, catching 26 passes for 645 yards and seven touchdowns, including a 60-yard pitch and catch from Michaels for a score in last week’s 31-21 playoff win over Graham. Brown has also had five interceptions this season, one of which came in that same game.
His true passion, however, may come with his leg.
“I love kicking, kicking is one of my favorite things to do in any sport, but other than that, I like receiver,” Brown said. “I like it all, but kicking is my favorite thing to do.”
He has done it well. He has made 40-of-43 extra point attempts and 4-of-6 on field goals, all of which were made in a early-season win over Virginia High. He had a fifth try blocked or he could have tied the state record for most field goals in a game.
“I told him if I had known that we would have let you kick one more,” Mance said.
That isn’t all. Brown has also set a school record by averaging 39.6 yards per punt this season during the regular season, and increased that number with two longer kicks against the G-Men.
“I would prefer not to punt,” he said, with a smile. “I would prefer to get touchdowns or field goals, but I love punting and kicking both.”
Brown has also started once this season at quarterback, replacing the injured Michaels at Bluefield, and threw for 120 yards and a touchdown.
“He threw a touchdown pass against them on a beautiful ball,” Mance said. “He just really does a great job at quarterback for you.”
It’s much the same in other sports.
“I love them all,” said Brown, who hopes to reach 1,000 points in basketball, and have postseason success in hoops and baseball. “It is hard to choose a favorite, whichever sport is in season is my favorite.”
Brown’s future is uncertain. He would love to play baseball and kick footballs, but understands the difficulty of doing both at the college level. He is even considering a call into the ministry.
No matter what he does, Mance knows Brown will be a success.
“He has got a great attitude, it is team first, individual second, he is a team player,” Mance said. “He prays for us every Friday night, he is a team captain. He does all the prayers, he is big into church, I have never heard the young man use profanity in my life.
“It is hard to believe this, but he is a better person than he is a football player. He is probably one of the better athletes to go through Richlands.”
—Contact Brian Woodson at firstname.lastname@example.org