Sunday, August 24, 2014
Kory Brown has decided to come home.
To play football, that is.
Brown has signed on to play his final year of eligibility with the South Carolina State Bulldogs in Orangeburg, an hour’s drive away.
This is a far cry from Brown’s final year in Lexington, KY playing for the University of Kentucky Wildcats.
Brown doesn’t care, though. He just wants one more shot to play.
At the conclusion of the 2013 season, Brown was told his student athlete scholarship would not be renewed at Kentucky. Accepting this as the end of his wild four-year ride following graduation from Berkeley in 2009, Brown finished out his degree work and went looking for a place where he could continue his love for football a little while longer as a graduate assistant coach.
“After graduating from UK, I was looking to be a grad assistant for college, coaching at a few schools here in South Carolina,” Brown said. “I met with the coaching staff at The Citadel and a coach informed me that I may have another year of eligibility left.”
Brown checked his transcripts.
“We looked into it and checked with the NCAA, and it turned out I did have another year as I only played one year at my junior college and two years at Kentucky,” he said. “So that’s three years, and there’s a rule where you have five years to play four.”
With a chance to play one last time, Brown jumped at the opportunity.
There was just one minor problem.
Brown was no longer an undergraduate student. In 2013 Brown, an All-SEC Academic Honor Roll student athlete, graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Kentucky.
He needed to be accepted and enrolled as a graduate student before he could play.
Grades were not a problem as Brown maintained a 3.0 GPA or better throughout his collegiate academic career.
His problem was time.
It was the summer, and teams were already set for the fall. Brown would have to talk to a coach willing to give the fifth-year senior an opportunity to play, and then acclimate himself to the new defensive scheme.
Kory is a man with a plan.With him, if there’s a will, he’ll find a way.
“Since I already graduated I had to be a grad student in order to use my last year of eligibility to compete in college,” he said. “The positive to that is I could have gone to any college in the country to play. But I haven’t been home much since I graduated high school in 2009, so I figured I’d play at home. The choices were between The Citadel, Charleston Southern and SC State.
“I got into SC State first and rolled with it.”
Brown’s story should serve as an inspiration. For the 2009 Berkeley Stags grad, the last five years have been anything but dull. His life has been a rollercoaster ride for sure.
From lack of hope, a slim chance to play college football and the devastation of a career threatening injury, to ultimate redemption and salvation playing SEC football at Kentucky, Brown has experienced the full spectrum of emotions when it came to chasing his dream.
After graduating from BHS in 2009, Brown had nothing.
No college opportunities; no football opportunities.
His grades through high school weren’t strong enough to get him an opportunity to play football on the collegiate level anywhere.
His future looked bleak.
Brown would not be able to follow older brother Omar to Marshall. In fact, Kory would be relegated to standing along the sidelines and watching younger brother Evan McKelvey help lead the Berkeley Stags to a 2009 Class AAAA, Division II state championship barely six months after Kory graduated the previous May.
He spent the time getting grades and test scores in order and found a junior college to take him at East Central Community College in Decatur, Mississippi.
Fate rose up and dealt Brown a near devastating blow when he blew out his knee midway through his first season at East Central.
Rather than see the injury as a negative, Brown took the two years on the sidelines to rehab the knee and get his academic house in order. During the hiatus, Brown amassed a 3.7 Grade Point Average and made the Dean’s List at ECCC for the first time.
Academic recognition had been so rare in his life at this point he didn’t even know what making the Dean’s List meant.
“Believe it or not I didn’t know what it was,” he said. “When they told me I was like, ‘OK,’ but my mother found out and she told the whole country. Then when I got calls and congratulation texts I had to go find out what exactly it was, and learned it’s really big especially for a college athlete.”
The opportunity to play for Kentucky in the heralded SEC shortly followed, right about the same time big brother Omar got his crack at the Baltimore Ravens in the NFL, and little brother Evan McKelvey slid into Omar’s old “31” jersey and slot in the starting lineup at Marshall.
Then Omar won his Super Bowl ring that same year.
Brown attributes little of his brothers’ good fortune to luck. With the Moncks Corner Kitfield community native, the key to success was all about hard work.
The former Stag North-South All-Star remembers his roots and his days patrolling the defensive backfields in Park and Rec games and wearing the Berkeley blue and gold. His advice for up and coming football players is simple: “Do what your coach tells you. Execute. Prepare. Preparation builds confidence and when you’re confident you go out and do your best.
“You leave it all on the field and don’t hold anything in the tank,” he said.
The most important thing for football players to remember, Brown said, is the “student” in student-athlete. Good grades are everything.
“I tell them to stay on the books. Education can take you a long ways. Without the grades you can’t play. If you have the grades you can go just about anywhere you want.
“Somebody will find a place for you.”
To the younger kids Brown offered a final piece of advice: “The average human will go through numerous periods of tough times throughout life. I tell people – even adults – stay strong, and stay focused.”
All part of Kory Brown’s master plan, and he plans to ride that master plan all the way to the house.