Mount Airy soccer star Mitchell Brown will play in the East-West All-Star game this July. Then he’ll depart for college to begin football practice.
The senior has signed with Campbell University to compete for the starting placekicker job.
Brown was all-conference in two sports last fall, earning player of the year for soccer and specialist of the year for football.
Asked what Campbell saw in him, Brown said, “They like my kicking abilities. I’ve been there several times. I went to a kicking camp there once and I won that camp, so that was good exposure.”
The competition was a last-man-standing drill where every time the kickers made a field goal, the distance was moved back. Miss one, and the kicker was knocked out of the drill.
By the end, Brown had to boot a 53-yarder to win the event.
Over his two years on the football team, Brown has been nearly automatic on point-after tries.
He made 55 of 57 as a junior and 45 of 48 as a senior despite having to change holders in midseason when Chris McNeal went down with an injury.
His 100 of 115 mark is an amazing 95.2 percent.
What is so remarkable about that is there are so many things that have to work together on a field goal, said Bear head coach Kelly Holder. The members of the offensive line have to block, the holder has to catch the ball and then place it properly. If anyone of those things falls apart, then the kick has failed before Mitchell did anything.
While extra points are successful 99 percent of the time in the NFL (and have even been discussed as unnecessary by the commissioner), PATs are anything but a given on the high school level.
In fact, spanning the end of his junior year and the start of his senior season, Brown made 57 consecutive extra points.
That is not only a school record, but the fifth-best mark of any kicker in state history, regardless of school classification, noted dad Jud Brown. He said he has spoken to athletic director Donald Price about getting proof to the N.C. High School Athletic Association so that Mitchell can get his name in the record book for making the top 10.
Mitchell is right behind Connor Barth, his dad said. Barth was a standout at UNC and now kicks for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Over his two years, Brown has gone 17 of 26 on field goals. His longest kick his junior year was 41 yards, and he beat that with a 44-yarder in a win at Carroll County on Sept. 6.
“I like to help my team win. … I don’t have to do as much as everyone else to put points up, I just have to practice,” said Brown. “Being consistent feels good.”
As for the act of kicking, “I like the way the ball feels on my foot. If you’ve ever noticed me on the sidelines, I like to beat the ball on my foot.”
Brown’s performance on the gridiron is even more impressive considering he had never played football on any level before.
Brown said Coach Holder approached him at the start of his sophomore season about doing some kicking. The young man already had impressed soccer coaches with his freshman year and was a preseason favorite for all-conference.
Then he broke a bone in his foot and was unable to play either sport.
By the end of his 10th-grade year, Brown was ready to go for summer workouts.
“When you take a kid who hasn’t played football before, you have to be really careful sometimes,” said Holder. Not physically, but with how the young man might fit in with the team’s chemistry.
“He’s a kid that you want around,” Holder said. “He has a high character, very intelligent, cares about other people.”
As for the physical part of it, Holder said, “I knew he had the leg. … I thought if he worked at it, he’d be really good, and he said, ‘I’ll try.’
“And I knew he was smart enough to learn all the intricacies of it, which I know nothing about.”
Brown smiled at that comment. “Coach Holder told me, ‘Take three steps back and two steps over.’”
Wanting to learn more about placekicking, Brown said, “I went to a couple of camps and clinics and that helped me with the technique part. I used the tools I had from learning from those people, and I was sort of self-taught. You know when you hit one good, so you just try to repeat that over and over.”
It would have to be difficult for any kid to be a star in one sport and then come over to another sport and have to mesh in with the guys, said Holder, but it was never a problem for Mitchell.
“I think it’s all just about doing your part,” replied Brown. “My part was special teams. I knew that if I took care of my part, then I would gain respect.”
Asked about some of his favorite parts of being on the football team, Brown answered, “Obviously, winning back-to-back conference championships. That was great. Punting this year, that was new — I liked it. I knew I was in charge of every fourth down, so I liked that.”
In the past, Holder had used his quarterback as the punter — which gave him the chance to call a fake if he were so inclined.
However, Brown spent some time over the summer with Bear alumnus Tyler Hull, who is now a punter for the South Carolina Gamecocks. In two seasons, Hull has averaged 38 yards a punt at the Division I level.
Hull showed Brown some tips and drills to work on.
“Punting is all about the drop, so he helped me with that — knowing how to drop it and where to hit in on your foot.”
Then at summer practices, Brown admitted he lobbied hard for the coach to let him punt. He finished the season with a healthy 37.0 average on 35 tries.
As if all that wasn’t enough, Brown was also the defense’s best friend with his long kickoffs.
Most area schools are lucky to have a kicker that can get the ball to the 10-yard line in the air, but Brown booted nearly every try that far with 18 going into the end zone for a touchback. Even the ones that were returnable traveled far enough to let the coverage team race down the field for tackles.
As for choosing Campbell, Brown said, “I like its size, I like its academic reputation. I like that it has a P.A. (physician assistant) program because that’s what I want to do.”
“At first I wanted to be a doctor, but I didn’t really want to have to go to school that long and pay off all that debt.”
As part of his intern class at school, Brown has been helping out Dr. Mark Dodd.
For the sports side, he said, “I of course like its football program; I like the direction that it’s going in.”
Campbell has struggled historically, but the team showed signs of turning things around after last year’s hiring of Mike Minter, the former Carolina Panther.
“The whole coaching staff is new, and they have everybody in a positive attitude.”
The Camels started off 1-7, but that included an overtime loss and two games decided by just a touchdown. Then the team went 2-2 in the final four games.
Things could be even better in 2014 with a solid kicker on the roster.