Senior Justin Brown wears one helmet for Polk County, but more like four or five hats.
In a high school football program where being a versatile player is not uncommon, few are as versatile as Brown. The Wildcats will be looking for another all-around performance tonight from the tight end, outside linebacker, kicker and punter as they host Sweetwater (4-0) in a pivotal District 5-AAA game at 7:30.
Polk County coach Derrick Davis said Brown is one who has paid his dues to get to his first year as a full-time starter. And there aren't many times when he's not on the field.
Brown has contributed six solo tackles and 11 assists while in a rotation at linebacker, which gives him a chance to catch his breath a little bit. He earned a few breathers last week after hauling in three passes for 102 yards and every one of them a touchdown in a victory at Chattanooga Christian.
"We've had a lot more 100-yard rushers than 100-yard receivers around here," Davis said.
Brown also managed to kick four extra points in the game and completed a conversion pass to Aaron Caldwell. He intercepted a pass earlier in the season when the Wildcats beat Central, and he's averaging 39.5 yards on 11 punts.
"I love all of them," Brown said of his roles.
Brown began playing football in the Benton area when he was 5. He said football is a lifestyle thing there.
"It's the biggest thing up here," Brown said. "Not just football but hard-nosed football."
Although this is his time to shine, he understands the importance of every function on the team. Even now there are times at practice where he will fulfill the duty of scout team quarterback.
Davis said it's possible a senior might think something like that is beneath him. Brown's willingness is part of why the coach considers him one of the team leaders.
"It helps the starters on defense and gives them a little bit of competition," Brown said. "The young guys are not used to it. I'm used to it."
Polk County enters tonight's game 3-1 and 1-0 in the district. This is the first district game for Sweetwater, which has outscored its previous opponents by an average of 35-13.
"I think we can win the district again this year," Brown said. "That would be four years in a row for this senior class and the first time that's ever been done. We've just got to put everything together. But we've got to get this win Friday first."
A Polk County victory may seem more attainable if Brown will just make a bunch of tackles, catch a few more touchdown passes and keep Sweetwater hemmed up with his kicking. That's if he's not too busy parking cars, working the concession stand and playing horn in the band.
"He's been very coachable all year this year," Davis said. "He'll do what the coaches ask. I wish we had more like him. Some groups you have to harp on. He's one we don't ever have to say anything to. He just produces."
Kelley Smiddie is a sports writer who has worked at the Times Free Press for 12 years. He covers high school sports and softball. Kelley’s hometown is Chattanooga, and he graduated from Brainerd High School and graduated Chattanooga State and UTC. Contact Kelley at 423-757-6653 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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