With three years of tackle football under his belt, Josh Brown is a junior outside linebacker for the Thomas Johnson football team.
He’s also 5-foot-5, 146 pounds and absolutely fearless about taking on ballcarriers who are almost always much bigger than he is.
“There’s no stutter in my step,” he declared in the office of second-year coach Bobby Humphries last Thursday evening.
Brown is on TJ’s seven-player leadership council and part of a small corps of players that were regular attendees at offseason activities. The group seems committed to digging the Patriots out of their current predicament. They are 1-19 over the past two seasons and didn’t win any of their 10 games last season.
“I feel like we just want to change the program around,” Brown said. “We want to turn TJ football back into the powerhouse it used to be.”
Humphries has been in their shoes before. When he played at TJ, he was pulled up to the varsity team near of end of his sophomore season in 2003. The Patriots finished 0-10 that season and then 2-8 the following year.
It wasn’t until Humphries’ senior year that they finally found their footing. The Patriots finished 6-4 in 2006, and Humphries was named the Defensive Player of the Year in the county.
Now, 13 years later as the team’s coach, he is trying to pull off the same type of turnaround. He knows what it takes — hard work, accountability, a refuse-to-give-in mindset. He just needs more players that are willing to pay the price.
“To be honest, this [preseason training] camp has been a blast for me because these kids want to learn,” Humphries said. “So, as grim as the situation looks for an outsider, [the players] have been positive. They have put the work in. They haven’t complained, and they want to learn. That’s all you can ask for.”
Though he is small and inexperienced, Brown is exactly the type of player that Humphries is looking for.
After moving into the TJ school district from Rockville in the eighth grade, Brown talked his parents into letting him play football. He was intrigued by the way the game was played and the opportunity the game provides for players to overcome preset limitations.
Humphries is quick to point out that Brown was at every offseason workout, and he does everything he is asked with an eagerness and enthusiasm that rubs off on other players.
Brown is also willing to hold teammates accountable and helps keep any apathy or negativity in check.
“If he was in someone else’s frame, he’d be a Division I athlete,” Humphries said.
The Patriots realize that, to pull themselves out of the abyss, it’s going to take a brick-by-brick approach. Humphries, who can’t rely on a feeder program to help restock the team with experienced players, is hopeful the foundation will rise above the surface this season.
Success will be measured in small, incremental steps. Stringing good plays together. Good practices. Reducing penalties. Being more accountable and committed to the team.
“I tell you what, in practice, these kids do not want to give up. They refuse,” Humphries said. “I don’t think they want to disappoint each other. I think they have relied on each other all summer and for all of camp. It’s all about becoming a family and a team, and I don’t think they want to let the guy next to them down.”
Region: Class 3A West
Postseason Appearances: 12
Last Playoff Appearance: 2011
State championships: 1
Coach and record with team: Bobby Humphries, second season, 0-10
2018 record: 0-10
2018 review: The Patriots finished winless for the fourth time in school history. Their other winless seasons were in 1979 (0-9-1), 1980 (0-10) and 2003 (0-9).
Returning starters: 3 offense, 3 defense