101018-lex-spt-Lebanon Football04-LG

Lebanon running back Keith Brown carries the ball during the Warriors' win over Central.

The high school football season has come to an end, but Lebanon sophomore Keith Brown can’t put away his cleats quite yet.

Brown has been invited to attend the prestigious national combine which is held before the annual All-American Bowl. While the game is focused on the nation’s top high school seniors, the combine gives underclassmen a chance to compete against each other and be seen by college recruiters from throughout the United States.

The combine will be held Jan. 3-4, in San Antonio, Texas, with the All-American Bowl to be played on Saturday, Jan. 5. The event is held at the Alamodome.

Brown was nominated after his performance last spring at a regional Football University Camp in Seattle. Typically, players must first attend one of the national Football University camps before being invited to attend the national combine, but Brown was given an invite on the spot.

“They felt that I was good enough to skip the national FBU camp and then get an invite to the combine,” Brown said.

He ended up attending the national camp in South Carolina anyway.

“I like the competition,” Brown said.

Brown played running back and linebacker for the Warriors this past season. The team finished the year with a record of 7-3 and lost to Crater, 47-41, in a first-round 5A state playoff game.

Brown said the entire experience was frustrating. The team was initially told it would be hosting a playoff game after placing third in the highly competitive Mid-Willamette Conference.

“It was terrible. We were supposed to play North Bend at home and we were really excited to have another home game,” Brown said. “We were at a linebackers meeting and they told us we had to go all the way to Crater. We were all pretty mad.”

The Warriors and Comets played an exciting game which came down to the final plays before being decided. Brown carried the ball six times for 119 yards and a touchdown, and also caught three passes for 101 yards and a touchdown.

“It was devastating to lose that game. None of us expected to hang up our shoulder pads after that. We expected to go to Wilsonville,” Brown said.

Brown was part of an extremely productive backfield last season. The Warriors led the Mid-Willamette Conference in scoring, averaging 43 points a game during the regular season. Only once was Lebanon held below 30 points and that was in a 35-21 lost to West Albany, which boasted the top scoring defense in the 5A classification by a wide margin.

Brown said the linemen deserve the credit for the team’s offensive success.

“Our linemen are so good, anytime one of us gets the ball there’s the chance for a big gain,” Brown said.

While he enjoyed great success as a running back, he wants to play linebacker at the next level.

“I definitely want to play defense. I love the defensive mindset,” Brown said. “Whoever is in front of me, make sure they know I’m coming downhill. Play hard, play fast.”

Even though college coaches cannot speak to Brown directly until next fall, they have already begun to express interest by contacting head coach Ty Tomlin. Brown attended the Oregon State home game against the University of Southern California as a guest of the Beavers and will also be in attendance at the Civil War game.

He has not made any decisions about which schools he will visit and ultimately choose, but he is not interested in being too far from home.

“I’m a big momma’s boy. Wherever I go, it will be pretty close,” Brown said, adding that he has family in California and is open to attending school there.

But he still has two years of high school ahead. He is wrestling for the Warriors this winter and plans to compete in track and field in the spring.

Next fall, he will take on a new role as an upperclassman on the football team. The Warriors are graduating a distinguished senior class which helped the team win a 5A state championship and new leaders will have to emerge. This year’s junior class was relatively small, putting more pressure on next year’s juniors.

“I think going into next year, our class will be depended on, for sure,” Brown said. “There are 17 of us. If we show really good leadership, I think it will make up for any lack of seniors.”

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