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Photos by Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette
Saint Francis senior defensive back Taylor Brown, right, was an all-conference and All-American selection last season. He recorded a team-high 49 solo tackles.

Saint Francis’ Brown big reason Cougars picked to win conference

Defensive back Brown’s play big reason Cougars preseason pick to win conference

Saint Francis coach Kevin Donley watches practice from the seat of a golf cart Saturday.
Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette
Defensive back Taylor Brown takes a breather while coach Kevin Donley watches practice.

Saint Francis was picked by the league’s 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. It’s 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 wasn’t 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 that’s pretty much how it was each game, and the award just kind of came with the hard work.”

Brown’s hard work has not been overlooked as Cougars coach Kevin Donley has seen the progression for the past three years.

“Taylor’s 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.

“He’s extremely coachable and well-respected, a coach’s dream.”

This season’s expectations are set high for Brown.

“He’s picked up where he left off last season,” Donley said. “He’s going to continue to improve.”

Brown agreed.

“I have to set my standards higher for this season,” he said. “I can’t 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 team’s 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 Brown’s hard work doesn’t 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 didn’t 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.