When Zack Brown tore his anterior cruciate ligament in the regular season finale of his junior season, it was a devastating injury, but one that he could recover in time for his senior year.
Then the kickoff classic came for the defensive lineman, and Brown tore his other ACL after getting chop blocked.
Most players might give up their college football dreams at that point, and it’s something that entered Brown’s head.
“You definitely think maybe my future is not in college football,” Brown said.
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On Wednesday, though, Brown was one of four Braden River High football players that sealed their college futures when he signed with St. Norbert College, a Division III program in Wisconsin.
To go from the sidelines during his senior season to signing with St. Norbert, Brown went to a recruiting website to put a couple videos up showcasing his skill from past seasons. Different coaches saw it and reached out, before Brown settled on St. Norbert.
“They have great academics, and they just suit me,” Brown said.
Brown joined running back Raymond Thomas (Northwest Missouri State) and quarterback Louis Colosimo (Bryant) as players honored during the school’s morning ceremony in the Pirates’ auditorium.
Nose tackle Deqwunn McCobb signed with New Mexico Military Institute, a junior college with a history of signing Manatee County players, later on signing day.
Two others expected to sign, defensive back Demetrius Lawson and linebacker Noah Arce, are still deciding on their futures.
“This is the first day you can sign, not the last,” Braden River head coach Curt Bradley said.
Thomas returned for a senior season that garnered Herald All-Area first team running back honors after he tore his ACL just before the 2015 playoffs. Now he’s heading to a Division II program that’s grown accustomed to winning.
Northwest Missouri State captured the D-II national title this past season and in three of the past four seasons.
“The thing that I liked the most is they talked about family a lot,” Thomas said. “I feel like I can be part of their family.”
Early into his recruitment after returning from a torn ACL, Thomas received offers from Northern Iowa and South Dakota. But Thomas chose the Bearcats, who started showing interest in late November after his senior season concluded.
Colosimo received an offer from Division I Bryant last summer, but was still weighing his options a couple days prior to signing day.
“I just made sure I found the right fit for me and do my homework, and I feel confident about Bryant,” said Colosimo, who guided the Pirates into the region semifinals with a 68 completion percentage, 28 touchdowns and just two interceptions.