North Greenville University football coach Jeff Farrington recently made a decision that will affect his life and team in a great way.
Farrington hired former Lakeside standout Brian Bratton as his wide receivers coach. Farrington probably knows he is getting a young, energetic coach with a great résumé as a player. After all, Bratton was an all-American at Furman University and helped lead the Paladins to a pair of Southern Conference titles.
After his college career, Bratton was signed by the Atlanta Falcons and also spent two seasons on the Baltimore Ravens practice squad. After stints in NFL Europe and the Arena League, Bratton signed with the Montreal Allouettes of the CFL.
In six stellar seasons north of the border, Bratton helped guide Montreal to three Grey Cup appearances (Canada’s Super Bowl) and two titles.
While with Montreal, Bratton hauled in 263 passes for 3,127 yards and 23 touchdowns. He also returned 53 kickoffs for over 1,000 yards, and he amassed 619 yards and a TD on 67 punt returns. Also, in 2011 he was inducted into the Furman University Hall of Fame.
On top of his ability and accomplishments as a player, Bratton seems to have a passion for working with young people. He held his own football camp during the off season and assists other players with theirs throughout the year. So, it is clear coach Farrington is getting a person with the knowledge of the game and capacity to be a great coach.
There are probably a lot of young coaches out there with solid résumés as players, and a terrific grasp of the game. Why do I think this hire will affect Farrington and North Greenville in such a big way? Because I know the Brian Bratton away from football.
The Brian Bratton who always has a smile on his face. The Brian Bratton who is bright, articulate and generous with his time. The Brian Bratton who became a fan favorite in Montreal, as much for his behavior as what he did on the field. The Brian Bratton who won the Tom Pate Memorial Trophy, the CFL equivalent of Man of the Year, for his sportsmanship and his impact in the community.
That is the Brian Bratton I talk about when I tell people about the most impressive athletes I have ever covered in this area. Sure, there have been athletes who have accomplished more. The Augusta area has produced Olympians, Super Bowl winners and first-round draft picks. However, when you make a list of the athletes who have represented their family, high school and community in a positive way and have left their mark on the people they have come in contact with, you can’t get very far down the list without mentioning Bratton. He is one of those players I am actually proud of.
It is not like we vacation together or spend the holidays at each other’s homes. Sometimes you just root for good people to do well, and that is what I have done since Bratton came on so strong his senior year at Lakeside. The coaches talked about his maturity and what a great kid he was. … I liked him from the start. I followed all of those accomplishments during his stint in college and his impressive professional career, too.
Through it all Bratton has not changed a bit. He is still the classy kid with that big smile. Stephen and Helen Bratton did one heck of a job raising their son. These days so many of the stories we hear about athletes are negative. Often we only get updates on former athletes from the area when they have screwed up.
I wish the public could hear more about athletes like Brian Bratton. That is why I think Jeff Farrington will look back on the decision to hire Brian Bratton as one of the best he has made in his entire life. Parents of kids who play at North Greenville should be thanking their lucky stars today. Their sons have the perfect role model on their campus in Brian Bratton.
Bratton will be a role model for his own child very soon. He and his wife, Ashley, are expecting their first child in September.