By Tommy Keeler Jr.
HARRISONBURG --If last year was a sign of things to come, Colonial Athletic Association defenses will need to spend a lot of time focusing on James Madison University wide receiver Daniel Brown.
Entering last year, Brown wasn't sure how he would come back after suffering an anterior cruciate ligament tear two years ago. Brown wasn't even 100 percent, but he still put together a phenomenal junior season. Now he feels like he's better than ever.
"I had my injury two years ago. I think it's finally back to 100 percent," Brown said on JMU's media day. "I feel like I've gotten stronger over the summer, and a lot of credit goes to the new strength coach guys.
"The doctor thinks it takes like two years to actually feel like a 100 percent."
Brown tore his ACL against West Virginia University in the third game of the season. He was off to a good start for the Dukes at the time, with a touchdown and three catches in the first two games.
Brown said it was tough going through all the rehab, but worth it in the end.
"It's never fun," Brown said of the rehab. "My roommate tore his ACL twice and he kind of told me what was going to happen. The first three nights are awful. You just got to do it. If you want to get back to where you were before, you just gotta put it aside."
Once he came back last year, Brown quickly became a big part of JMU's offense. He was able to use his 6-foot-5, 220-pound frame to his advantage and make plenty of big plays for the Dukes.
He led the Dukes with 42 receptions for 665 yards and eight touchdowns.
Brown said it did take a little time to get comfortable with playing again.
"I didn't really know what to expect," Brown said. "I was kind of scared to get hit. You know, you get hit a couple times and you're like, 'OK, well it's not going to break anymore.' I just got more comfortable with it.
"I had good support from my teammates and everybody believed in me. Once the ball got rolling, it was kind of like a snowball effect. You get more comfortable playing with it. You stop worrying about it."
He has 49 catches for 844 yards in his career.
Brown is one of many receivers transfer quarterback Vad Lee will be able to throw to this season. The Dukes have sophomore Brandon Ravenel returning at receiver, and redshirt senior Dejor Simmons has moved from running back to receiver. JMU also has two transfer receivers in Sean Tapley (North Carolina) and Ishmael Hyman (Kansas).
Brown said he's excited about the talent they have at receiver.
"I think we have a good group," Brown said. "We want to be the toughest group on the field. That's what our coach preaches. We want people to be scared of us. We want people to be intimidated of our toughness. We want to be blockers first, and with blocking you get rewarded with the ball. That's kind of our mindset."
Brown said he believes the Dukes can have a lot of success and make it back to the FCS playoffs. Their last playoff appearance came in 2011.
"I think this team is just hungry to win, and I think the community is, too. We want to live up to our expectations," Brown said. "I want to get back to the playoffs. I've only been there once. It would be a thrill to be back."
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or firstname.lastname@example.org Follow on Twitter @tkeelernvd