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Brown pulling double duty for Pioneers

by Rob Peirce

SPORTS WRITER

GLENVILLE -- Jerald Brown awaits patiently at his own 9-yard line. With a resounding PLUMP, the ball lands in his hands, and like race horses out of a chute, he takes off.

The Glenville State kick returner weaves his way in and out of defenders; he's barely, if it all, touched. Would-be East Stroudsburg tacklers fall to the grass, their cradled arms empty.

A few short seconds later, Brown's stride slows to a halt in the end zone -- an apparent 91-yard touchdown return. A clipping call negates the runback, but Brown's effort is noted; he ran one back the week before against Cheyney that stood.

And for Brown, that's only natural.

"Every time they kick the ball to me, I expect to run it back," he said after a disappointing 10-0 loss to the East Stroudsburg Warriors.

He leads the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference in kick return yards with 209. On nine returns, that's a 23.2 yard-per-return average.

With four weeks gone by in the season, he's the only WVIAC kick returner that has a TD return. And he would have had two.

Make no mistake about it -- Pioneers coach Paul Shaffner is glad Brown is on his side. Shaffner compares him to Deion Sanders.

"He's got a burst in him, and he has great field vision," Shaffner said. "He can see the field. He can change from first gear to fourth gear in no time flat. He can do some amazing things."

And returning kicks aren't the only thing he can do. Brown had two interceptions in the East Stroudsburg game alone, giving him three in four games.

While Brown is happy doing both, if Shaffner were forced to limit him to one role, he said it would be that of defensive back.

"He's a tremendous cover kid," Shaffner said. "He can cover anybody we're going to face. Whether they're taller or bigger than he is, that doesn't really matter. He has great leaping ability, great catch-up speed, great reactions. And that's what makes him such a good kick returner is his defensive back abilities. He can visualize what's happening around him and then go for it.

"The more times he gets involved in things, the better off we're going to be -- in returning punts and returning kickoffs. And he's one of the best defensive backs in our conference without question."

It's the basic fundamentals that make Brown what he is.

"I read the quarterback's eyes and what the receiver is doing," he said. "I just play my coverage, and then I come over."

There are still other ways he can help the team -- even off the field.

His mere presence in the locker room can help lift the team's spirit, linebacker Blake Tasker said.

"He's an all-around good player, and he has a good attitude," Tasker said. "We love him."

Sports writer Rob Peirce can be reached at 626-1444 or by e-mail at sports@exponent-telegram.com.

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