Seton Hill receiver Ardell Brown studies game, sets records
It happened in a game against Clarion during Ardell Brown’s sophomore season. That’s when the Seton Hill receiver realized it would take more than playing with an edge to maintain his success.
Brown was along the Clarion sideline when he heard coaches implore the Eagles defense to rotate a safety over to help the cornerback covering the underrecruited playmaker, who put up solid numbers (43 receptions, 691 yards, five touchdowns) as a freshman trying to prove he belonged in college football.
“That was a real eye-opener to me,” Brown said. “I knew I had to start paying attention to what defenses were doing, worrying less about man-on-man coverage and learning more about defensive schemes.”
So Brown, who did not garner significant college interest despite being an all-state player at Bishop Kearney in Rochester, N.Y., began studying.
It didn’t matter to Brown if he was watching film of himself, teammates, other college teams or NFL talent, he attacked game preparation with the same eagerness he went at defensive backs on the field.
“Turn on the film in a dark room and just watch and learn,” Brown said. “That’s helped me get better.”
The results have been record-breaking.
Brown finished that sophomore season with 74 catches for 1,110 yards and earned first-team all-conference honors. The 5-foot-11, 180-pound redshirt junior — Brown missed last season because of a groin injury — enters Saturday’s PSAC West game at IUP with 63 receptions for 1,000 yards and eight touchdowns this season for the Griffins (1-7, 1-4).
Despite the extra attention, Brown ranks fourth in Division II in receiving yards, fifth in receptions per game (7.9) and sixth in receiving yards per game (125) in leading Seton Hill’s 17th-ranked passing offense.
“I tell people, ‘If you come to practice, you can’t tell he’s our best player,’ ” Seton Hill coach Isaac Collins said. “He’s constantly working hard. That’s part of why he’s such a great player.”
Collins would know. In his sixth year at Seton Hill, he has coached at nearly every level: FCS, Division III and stints with the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles through the league’s Minority Fellowship Program.
“I might be biased because I get to coach him, but he’s hands down the best receiver this program’s ever had,” Collins said. “If you watch what he does, if you watch what teams do to try to take him away from our gameplan. They try, but they can’t. He works on beating defenses. His hand-eye coordination is the best I’ve seen in 20 years of coaching. His hands, he catches everything. He’s a leader, and I have no doubt it all will translate to professional football.”
(Further proof Brown catches everything: he had an interception on the final play of the Griffins’ 34-33 win against Mercyhurst on Oct. 13. It’s the only defensive down Brown has played for Seton Hill.)
Collins said he’s confident Brown, known for precise route-running as much as his game-breaking speed, will be invited to an NFL camp. Brown is working toward those goals, but he’s also eyeing other milestones.
He’s already Seton Hill’s all-time leader in receptions (180), receiving yards (2,801) and receiving touchdowns (21). With another year of eligibility remaining, Brown could put those numbers out of reach.
But he’s hoping his on-field success will help Seton Hill win more frequently. The Griffins won five games in 2016 but lost 21 seniors from that team. Last season, without those players and Brown, Seton Hill did not win a game.
“We’re young, but we’re gaining experience and we’re definitely getting better,” Brown said. “The wins are coming.”
Mike Kovak is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact at Mike at [email protected] or via Twitter @MKovak_Trib.