For all the anguish Novi Detroit Catholic Central players felt in their 49-20 loss to Detroit Cass Tech in the Division 1 state finals, you’d have to multiply that several times over to approach how Austin Brown was feeling.
Brown quarterbacked the Shamrocks before suffering a season-ending injury during last week’s semifinal win over Romeo, and could only watch from the sidelines during Saturday’s game.
“It kind of sucks not playing in a state championship game after you work 16 weeks straight, but this team really helped me out this week,” said the sophomore, sounding as positive and upbeat as he could.
In last Saturday’s 17-0 semifinal win over defending state champion Romeo, Brown took off on a run and was aiming for the end zone.
“I dove for the pylon trying to get that extra yard, trying to get that touchdown,” he said. “My coaches are always wanting me to go out of bounds, but I’m fearless and I wouldn’t change what I did. I would do the same thing over again.”
The result? Brown broke his fibula and tore a few ligaments, but he was dwelling on an entirely different result.
“No! I can’t believe I got marked down a yard or two short,” he said.
Brown remained at the Romeo game to support his teammates, went to school Monday so he could keep pace in class, prepped for surgery on Tuesday and had his operation Wednesday.
“I’ve never broken a bone or a fingernail or anything my whole life, and this happens in the semi-final game of a 13-0 season, so it’s hard,” he said. “It made me realize not to take anything for granted, the little things like walking. It’s really a game-changer for me.”
At the same time, Brown remains upbeat.
“I’ve got a really good family that takes care of me, so it’s been easy,” he said. “It sounds crazy, but I’m glad this happened like this, it’s going to motivate me more than ever to be the best that I can be.”
Senior Dillon Dejong took Brown’s place, but Cass Tech’s defense shackled CC’s run-heavy offense and limited the Shamrocks to 193 total yards, a far cry from their average of 320 per contest.
“Obviously if you lose your quarterback, you know it’s going to be different things that you’re going to try to do,” coach Tom Mach said. “(Brown) had a great year for us and did a great job all the way up to that point.
“Hats off to the quarterback that went in, Dejong, he did a tremendous job, a gutsy job for only playing quarterback for three days. He practiced, and then all of a sudden he’s in playing before 30,000 people, so I thought he did a fabulous job.”
And what exactly did Brown see from his sideline seat in a wheelchair?
“I can’t believe I can compete at this level, to be honest. The game’s fast and I’m taking it all in right now,” he said.
“Everything happens for a reason, so I’m just trying to stay positive, and not trying to get down on myself. I’m ready to get out of this cast — even though it’s only been four days.”