Chester head coach Victor Floyd believes that Pha'Leak Brown's best football is still ahead of him. That’s a promising sign for the junior running back who was named a Freshman All-American by MaxPreps as a 14-year-old ninth-grader.
The numbers are trending up in Brown’s third year for the Cyclones (4-1), who host Carolina Pride Friday night. Brown ran for 711 yards in his first year with eight touchdowns, only topping 20 carries once. That game against South Pointe in 2015 is still the only 20-carry-plus game in his career; he only had four games with double-digit carries last year as a sophomore (when he was one of ten sophomore starters) with double-digit carries.
That’s changed this fall, though. Gone are the seniors with whom Brown shared touches in the Cyclone backfield. He’s had at least 11 carries in all five games so far, already topping last season’s entire rushing output.
“Pha'Leak's upside is really, really high,” Floyd said. “He is a kid that's not nearly capped out. He has a lot of growth left physically, and he has the perfect skill-set they (colleges) look for at running back. He's got great hands, he can block. I think he has all the tools to be a really good player at the next level.”
Brown shared the Chester backfield with standout quarterback Malik Williams, who is now at Appalachian St, his first two high school football seasons. Brown, stoutly built at 5-foot-11 and 180 pounds, says Williams made him better. He sees things now that he didn't see as a younger player, and he feels he is more mature.
“When I was a freshman, I didn't really think about how important it was to block,” Brown said. “But now I see it's important to protect the quarterback.”
Click through the graphic to see Pha’Leak Brown’s increase in carries and production this season, compared to the past two years:
Brown was a quiet ninth grader, but now he is more outspoken and he feels it's his turn to help the younger guys.
“When I first came in I wasn't very vocal,” Brown said. “I just tried to lead by example. Now I try to do both. I feel like people see me doing both, it will motivate them to be a better player."
Brown's freshman year coincided with Floyd's first year back at Chester. After his first successful stint as the head man of the Cyclones, which included a near-miss at a state title 10 years ago, Floyd went to coach in Brunswick, Ga. He came back two years ago, and he backs up Brown's assessment of how the talented back has changed.
“He's grown mentally over these past couple years,” Floyd said. “In every position that we put him in, I thought he grew as a young man. You can tell now that he feels that ‘I'm one of the leaders now.’ Whereas, ninth and 10th grade he probably said a lot less, now he's a little more vocal. And that comes with maturity and confidence.”
Academics will be no issue for Brown as he begins to think about college. He has a 3.6 GPA and his dad, originally from Haiti, graduated from Harvard University and taught Pha’Leak to speak French and Creole. Floyd thinks Brown would be an ideal candidate to graduate from high school early and enroll in college mid-year.
Brown says he has received recruiting interest from Duke, UNC, N.C. State, Old Dominion, South Carolina, and Virginia Tech, but no firm offers yet. He does not yet have a favorite.
“You're looking at a kid who hasn't touched the ball a hundred times in a season yet,” Floyd said. “So I think a lot of people are waiting to see.”