Former Lakeside High School football standout Brian Bratton certainly displayed his talent during his prep career with the Panthers, but I'm not sure anyone expected him to become an instant success on the college gridiron.
Those observers were correct. Bratton was a red-shirt during the 2000 season at Furman University, but now it appears stardom is within Bratton's reach in 2002.
The 6-foot, 179-lb. wide receiver is now a junior for the Paladins, and he seems to be getting better with each passing game.
Initially, Bratton was rarely used on offense, and didn't look to be part of the Paladins' plans. All that changed, however, when Bratton started returning kicks.
By the end of his freshman season, Bratton had returned three kickoffs for touchdowns and led the nation with an average of more than 37 yards per return.
Along with that success came many post-season accolades - Bratton was named the Southern Conference Freshman of the Year, and also was selected second team All-American by Sports Network.
This year, Bratton began the season backing up roommate Isaac West, a Butler High School product.
In the Sept. 21 game against Richmond, Bratton caught five passes, so when West went out with an injury, Furman head coach Bobby Lamb knew there wouldn't be much of a dropoff with Bratton stepping in.
"He's played great for us, and is just a notch behind Isaac," Lamb said. "He is really going to be a fantastic player for us."
Bratton's roommate was equally impressed.
"He did great," West said. "I knew he would step, and when he made that play (a 76-yard touchdown reception), all I could say was, 'Wow!"'
For the season, Bratton has averaged more than 21 yards on kickoff returns, 11.3 per carry, and 11.6 per reception. Through Furman's first four games, the Paladins had a 3-1 record, and Bratton was second on the squad with 10 receptions for 166 yards. He had scored three touchdowns (two receiving, one rushing), which also was second-best on the team.
Considering that kind of production, I'd guess that Bratton will keep getting the ball this season.
By the time he's a senior, Bratton may have pro scouts writing about him, rather than me.
Rogers has big night
Apparently, Greenbrier High School football player Eugene Rogers didn't appreciate being left out of my recent column about some of the county's underclassmen emerging on the prep gridiron this season.
In Greenbrier's 13-8 win over Butler on Sept. 27, the 5-9, 160 lb. sophomore caught a fourth quarter touchdown pass from Wolfpack quarterback Cam Griffin. Later, Rogers sealed the Region 3-AAAA win with a 63-yard touchdown return on an interception.
Rogers played sparingly on the Pack varsity last season, but has taken over at one of the cornerback positions this fall. He also plays wide receiver and is used on kick returns.
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