SU Football Notebook: Hornets reflect on the loss of a former teammate

Former Shenandoah University football player Deshon Brown passed away last week due to injuries sustained in a dirt bike crash in King George County on Aug. 23. Brown was 22 years old. Photo courtesy of Shenandoah University Photos by Keith Lucas ©Sideline Media Productions

WINCHESTER – As Shenandoah University’s football team prepares to kick off the 2017 season with Saturday night’s home game against Gallaudet, many Hornets have been doing so with heavy hearts.

Former SU receiver Deshon Brown, who last played for the Hornets in 2015, passed away last week as a result of injuries sustained in a dirt bike crash on Aug. 23 in King George County that also claimed the life of his 2-year-old son. Brown was 22 years old.

Shenandoah head coach Scott Yoder recalled on Wednesday hearing the news of the accident from Hornets senior cornerback Weldon Gilchrist Jr.

“It’s really hard to think about we’re here in camp and getting ready for the season and then something like that happens and you kind of realize that maybe having a bad practice really isn’t that big of a deal,” Yoder said. “But it’s also for our players, our juniors and seniors that know him, that have played with him, we’re watching Gallaudet film from a couple years ago, he’s on the film. So it’s been a tough week and I know our kids are hurting but hopefully something positive can come out of it as far as our team and our players just saying remember the good times with Deshon and value what we have and take advantage of each and every day.

“I just can’t imagine for his family for something like that. … I don’t know how you move forward. But I know they will. His mom has been in my office before. I’ve talked with her. Our prayers and thoughts are with the family. But it’s been a tough week to 10 days, for sure.”

Michael Ashwell

Yoder, who took over as Shenandoah’s head coach in 2013, the same year Brown joined the Hornets, said Brown always had a “great smile and a great energy about him.”

“He was like 140 pounds soaking wet but would go across the middle and make tough catches, and loved to play football,” Yoder recalled. “And if you saw him in the hallway, it didn’t matter what was going on, you’d say ‘what’s up Deshon,’ he’d have a big smile on his face. And just a great kid. I mean I think it’s a lot about what our university’s about, a kid who was maybe overlooked by some schools but was a tough kid and could make plays and valued his time here.”

Hornets senior Michael Ashwell, Brown’s teammate for two seasons, joined Brown in SU’s receiver corps after making the move from running back prior to the start of the 2015 season.

“Deshon was a good friend of mine,” Ashwell said. “He helped me my sophomore year when I made the transition to receiver, a huge amount. Anything I asked him he was always there for me and always helped me out through that time.”

Hayden Bauserman, a junior, earned the starting quarterback job as a freshman in 2015, Brown’s final season at SU. Brown ranked second on the team in receptions (32) and receiving yards (405) that season.

Hayden Bauserman

Bauserman called Brown’s passing a “devastating thing.”

“I think the whole program was in shock. Everybody who was around Deshon didn’t really think that it was real at first. But coach Yoder addressed it. We’ve been in contact with the family, I actually texted his sister yesterday,” Bauserman said.

“It’s obviously devastating but Deshon’s always gonna be on our minds and obviously he’s gonna be on our minds more this year than he ever has been in the past, and his family. It’s tough but we’re gonna keep moving forward and play for Deshon and kind of remember how he was as a person and as a player, because he was great at both of them.”

NEXT MAN UP: Shenandoah’s defense is expecting to see Gallaudet roll out the triple-option offense on Saturday, and the Hornets will defend it with a linebacker group that is not yet 100 percent healthy.

When healthy, Adrian Brisbon, Bernie Hayes III and Tyler Williams – a trio that saw significant playing time primarily in backup roles last season (Hayes started four games in 2016, while Brisbon started two) – will be the Hornets’ starting linebackers, Yoder said. But Brisbon and Williams are still working their way back from injuries and Yoder said he doesn’t expect either to start against Gallaudet, adding that both will play barring any setbacks over the next few days. Juniors Dylan Miller and Kyle Dexter were listed on the depth chart ahead of Williams and Brisbon on Wednesday.

Mario Wisdom

Despite the lack of experience at linebacker, Yoder said the Hornets feel a sense of “calmness” in the fact that those players stepping into larger roles this season have a grasp of the defensive game plan that has limited Gallaudet’s offense to 12 total points over the last three meetings.

“It’s assignment football and sometimes we’re gonna get out of position and they’re gonna hurt us,” Yoder said of defending the option. “But I think if we play the way we can and make them earn everything, I don’t think they’re gonna be able to do it up and down the field three or four times. But it’s time to see what guys are made of and let’s find out if our guys can play when the chips are down. You don’t get any re-dos now.”

BIG SHOES TO FILL: Cedrick Delaney, who graduated as the school’s all-time leading rusher, is gone, and with junior Jalen Hudson working primarily at slot receiver so far this month, SU’s running game figures to lean heavily on the legs of sophomore Mario Wisdom.

“Especially after Cedrick leaving, everybody’s like just looking at me to see what he’s gonna do. Hopefully I do good,” Wisdom, a Fredericksburg native, said with a laugh.

The 5-foot-11, 190-pound Wisdom, who carried 26 times for 100 yards and two touchdowns as SU’s third-string tailback in 2016, said he’s not concerned with trying to fill the shoes left by Delaney’s departure.

“I’m not really focused on that. I’m focused more on my game plan and how I’m gonna go towards the game,” he said. “If I do good, I do good. I’m not trying to really surpass him.”