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Brown, Grayson repackaged for success

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East Carolina wide receiver Trevon Brown lines up for a play during practice on Tuesday while offensive coordinator Tony Petersen looks on in the background.

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By Nathan Summers
The Daily Reflector

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

When players are lost from teams for entire seasons, their impact inevitably fades somewhat in their absence.

Although the East Carolina football team is reeling from an 0-2 start to the season, there is no denying the impact made by the return of wide receivers Davon Grayson and Trevon Brown, and in fact the Pirate offense would be largely invisible without them.

Grayson, a senior, is back from an entire year lost to a knee injury. He leads the Pirates through two games with 12 catches for 162 yards. Brown, meanwhile, was ruled academically ineligible last season and then sustained a neck injury on top of that, and in his second game back, he was the Brown of old, reeling in a school-record 95-yard touchdown pass at West Virginia. 

If there is to be any success for the Pirates this season, it will depend heavily on the production of the returning receiving duo along with mainstay senior Jimmy Williams.

“He was right there going through it with me the whole time I was going through it,” Grayson said of his and Brown’s lost seasons in 2016. “Every time I would see him and he was down and upset, I would have to pick him up and I think we both just helped each other get back to this point.”

He said when times were toughest for the pair last year, it was either Williams or former Pirate and current Buffalo Bills receiver Zay Jones there to remind them “who we were,” according to Grayson.

As much as both players have come back with a new fire for the competition, Grayson seems to take at least some value from being forced off the field for a year.

“I let football define who I am for so long that when I lost football it was so hard to just move around,” Grayson said. “I didn’t know what I was going to do when I rolled out of bed. But now I believe I have everything straightened out — I know what I would be without football and I’m blessed to have an opportunity to still play this game. I know for a fact (Brown) feels the same way.”

He most certainly does.

In fact, Brown did plenty of his own soul searching last year when he was largely forced away from team activities while serving his academic suspension and later rehabilitating a difficult and painful neck injury. He said it made him realize there was more at play than just him playing a sport.

“We all say things happen for a reason. Something bad had to happen for me to be at this point in my life,” said Brown, who already has an impressive highlight reel that includes nine touchdowns. “Davon, Jimmy and those guys, we’ve all been here for four or five years now and we feel like every time we step on the field it’s time to go. Davon and me felt like we had to step up and help Jimmy and just come out swinging with all we’ve got.”

Brown said he can feel the lift he gives his teammates by being back full time, but gives the credit right back to them for what he described as them always reminding him of his gifts. But his inspiration is coming from multiple sources.

“I feel like I was a big part of this team, and when I came back on this team it’s like everything came together with every part we have,” Brown said. “I leaned on God every day and it’s just a blessing to be back out here. I have a 4-year-old son, and I look at him and think I’ve got to have a better life for him.”

The new Grayson is a lot feistier than the previous one. This one is even known to get in the face of a defensive back after making a catch. But away from the field that notion conjures the same winning smile.

“I’m an older guy now and it’s easier to let my personality show,” said Grayson, who has seven career touchdown receptions. “When I was younger, there were times when I kind of knew my place. I wasn’t the No. 1 guy, but now there’s not a time when I step out on the field that I don’t feel like I’m the No. 1.”

Sirk status

It is looking more and more like junior quarterback Gardner Minshew will be manning the Pirate offense this week, as Game Two starter Thomas Sirk remained sidelined Tuesday while following required concussion protocol.

According to ECU head coach Scottie Montgomery, Sirk could be cleared for non-contact drills by today and noted that during the season, most QBs face no contact in practice anyway. Still, Sirk’s full recovery remains in doubt and the coach said it is nice to have a backup with starting experience in Minshew.

“One thing that you have when you have a guy with that kind of experience; you always worry when your first quarterback is out because the second quarterback is usually a guy that’s either a developing guy that doesn’t know the offense or hasn’t paid attention, but (Minshew) made practice run really smoothly today,” Montgomery said.

Contact Nathan Summers at nsummers@reflector.com, 252-329-9595 and follow @NateSumm99 on Twitter.

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