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Pearl River football adds former Gatorade Player of the Year Tony Brown

POPLARVILLE, Miss. — A familiar name to Mississippi football fans will be suiting up for the Pearl River football program in 2021. PRCC coach Seth Smith announced Wednesday that his All-American running back at East Central, Tony Brown, has joined the program. Brown spent the last three seasons at South Alabama.

“I’m extremely excited to get the chance to coach Tony for one more year. We were blessed to be a part of a lot of good memories together. Anytime you add the Gatorade Player of the Year to your team you feel like he can make an immediate impact,” Smith said. “Deeper than that for me he’s a culture kid. What I mean by that is I’ve coached him from eighth grade on so he’ll come in knowing the expectations, how hard you have to run the ball, how tough you have to be — all those kinds of things. 

“He’ll already know that. He’ll walk into our program understanding from Day 1 what the expectation is.”

After being lightly used at USA over the last three seasons, Brown reached out to his former coach to see if they could team up one more time.

“He basically said ‘I’m hungry to get back on the field and score.’ I said ‘we’re excited to feed you so come on,’” Smith said. “We are ecstatic that we’re getting him. He checks every box. We’re excited to add him to what we feel like is a talented group on the offensive side of the ball.”

Brown said he started to consider transferring earlier in the season but didn’t make up his mind until the 2020 campaign was complete. After talking with his parents, Brown said his father reminded him Smith was at PRCC and a reunion might be worth exploring.

“He changed how I look at a lot of stuff; he changed my life, actually,” Brown said. “In high school, football was a big part of my life and helped me get through a lot. 

“Coach Smith pushed me like nobody else — even at South. Having somebody behind you who believes in you is a great feeling.”

PREP STANDOUT
Wildcat fans had a front row seat to the potential excitement Brown can inject into a game in 2017 when Brown’s East Central Hornets traveled to the Poplarville Hornets for the MHSAA Class 4A South State Championship Game. In the “Hornet Bowl,” Brown went off, rushing for 204 yards and three touchdowns on 20 carries. He also caught a 65-yard TD pass and returned three kicks for 201 yards and two more scores. That came on the heels of an eight-TD performance in the previous round.

That season, Brown’s senior year, he led the state with 45 rushing touchdowns. He also finished second with 2,687 yards, averaging 10.6 yards on 253 carries. As a junior in 2016, Brown rushed for 3,317 yards and 41 touchdowns — both tops among his Mississippi counterparts. His yards were good enough for fourth nationally. As a sophomore, playing behind current PRCC running backs coach A.J. Davis, Brown rushed for 111 yards and a touchdown and also caught 11 passes for 342 yards and two scores.

An abundance of accolades accompanied Brown’s on-field success. He was named the 2017 Gatorade Player of the Year in Mississippi as well as a USA Today Second-Team All-American and MHSAA Class 4A Player of the Year; Brown was a two-time All-State selection of the Clarion-Ledger, MHSAA Class 4A Offensive Player of the Year, MaxPreps Medium Schools Second-Team All-American and Sun Herald 2017 Player of the Year.

“He’s a Division I talent. He has tremendous speed and vision. He checks every box for us,” Smith said. “He’s a guy who can take it to the house in one play. The more of those guys you have on the team the more explosive you become. The more explosive you become the more points you can score. 

“Tony will come in and make an immediate impact on our team from Day 1.”

COLLEGE EXPERIENCE
Brown originally redshirted at USA in 2018. As a freshman in 2019, Brown played in 11 of 12 games for the Jags, rushing seven times for 42 yards. He also recorded two tackles on special teams. Brown recorded one tackle in 2020.

Because of rules passed by the NJCAA and NCAA in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Brown joins the Wildcats with three years of eligibility.

NEW ADDITION
Brown isn’t the only new addition to the Wildcat program. PRCC announced on Dec. 9 that former Ole Miss quarterback and NJCAA National Champion Bo Wallace has been hired as Co-Offensive Coordinator and Quarterback Coach. Wallace will team with Co-OC and Offensive Line Coach David Chatham to lead the offense.

Wallace served in the same capacity at Coahoma last season.