Don’t ever count Dion Brown out.
In an Ironton High School career littered by knee and shoulder surgeries, the final straw appeared to come last February. Brown tore his left anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) on the basketball court against Chillicothe.
Remarkably, when Ironton started football practice this July, the talented senior projected by many to become the Tigers’ next great running back was there to participate in workouts.
Mark Vass, the Fighting Tigers’ new head coach, still sounds amazed.
“In the winter, I didn’t think there was a chance,” Vass said of Brown’s return this season.
The positive-minded Brown never gave up hope, however.
“It feels good to be back this season,” he said last week during Ironton’s photo day at Tanks Memorial Stadium. “I had a fast recovery. I came back in five months, where it usually takes six to eight. I just worked hard this summer.”
The 6-foot-1, 205-pounder is looking fit and soaking up the preseason as part of Ironton’s 20-member senior class.
“Dion was cleared by doctors and is doing great,” Vass said. “He’s a fighter. He worked all offseason to get where he is.”
Brown regularly takes part in drills, although Ironton coaches are taking a cautious approach. At times, Brown has worn a red jersey in practice situations to limit contact.
“He’s sore every practice and ices, but he’s never going to complain,” Ironton assistant coach Craig Harvey said. “He has such a good attitude.”
Brown said his quick recovery wouldn’t have been possible without Tri-State Rehab Services and David Coburn, who is Ironton’s trainer.
“Dion is talking about after high school pursuing physical therapy because the people have been so good to him,” Harvey said.
Brown has never played a full season, but is hoping this will be the first.
“In junior high, this was the next Jermon Jackson,” Harvey said in reference to the former Ironton star who went on to play at Ohio State.
However, Brown blew out a knee in the scrimmage before his freshman year and was sidelined for the whole fall. He played only parts of the next two seasons due to continued injury problems. Along with surgeries to both knees, Brown suffered a broken collarbone and has a plate in the other shoulder.
Even so, the many setbacks haven’t left him bitter.
“Things happen,” he said. “You’ve just got to deal with them. I love football. You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do, I guess.”
Despite his knee history, Brown remains one of the fastest players on the team, along with sprinter Patrick Lewis and end Drew Wells.
“I’m more game-speed fast than track fast,” Brown said with smile.
Last year, Brown played a lot on defense. He provided the difference-maker against Gallipolis with a touchdown run.
“I’m optimistic,” Vass said of the senior’s latest comeback. “Sooner or later you will see him out there contributing, maybe in a big way.”
Brown said he feels confident Ironton will put together another successful season. The Tigers open at Wheelersburg on Sept. 24.
“We’re going to work hard and take it game by game,” he said.
For Brown, there’s no other way.
ROCKY STANLEY can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2671.
Don’t ever count Dion Brown out.
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