Malachi Brown made good progress under center for Stockbridge until a broken leg sidelined him for the remainder of the season. Now, the rising junior quarterback is ready to come back strong. (Staff Photo: Gabriel Stovall)
STOCKBRIDGE — When Malachi Brown dove for extra yards on a quarterback trap play last season against Dutchtown, he felt his leg tweak after he hit the ground.
He experienced a little pain. He knew something wasn’t completely right, but it took a Stockbridge trainer’s assessment of the situation to alert Brown of the enormity of his injury.
“I kinda didn’t know what happened when I first broke my leg,” Brown said. “I felt it pop, and at first I was just laying there. When the trainer came, I asked how it look. They said it didn’t look too good.”
And that’s when the emotional floodgates overtook the then-sophomore quarterback.
“I just broke down,” he said. “When she told me that it didn’t look good, and that it was probably broken, I knew my season was over.”
And it was too bad, because up to that point, Brown was just starting to get himself acclimated to leading the Tigers under center. One week removed from a 35-30 confidence-building win over upstart Eagle’s Landing, Brown was starting to find his way in coach Kevin Whitley’s Wing-T offense.
The Tigers would go on to an 11-2 finish and second straight Class AAAA quarterfinals appearance in 2013, which was good to Brown, but less than satisfactory.
He would’ve rather been the one on the field helping his team toward a fourth straight postseason berth under Whitley.
The injury especially frustrated Brown when he found out that it was something that, perhaps could’ve been prevented simply by a slight change in his diet.
“My leg breaking, it was really just kind of a fluke injury,” Brown said. “There wasn’t really any contact. It just broke. My doctors said I didn’t have enough calcium in my bones. Aside from rehab, they told me I needed to start drinking more milk.”
Now, as the summer conditioning regimen of passing leagues galore begins in earnest, Brown said both he and his leg feel stronger than ever. He said he can’t wait to get out on the field today in the Southside Shootout 7-on-7 Passing League Tournament in Locust Grove to put his leg to its stiffest test yet.
“(The leg) feels great,” he said. “I think I’m back to 100 percent. I feel like I’m back. I’ve been working it out, going to physical therapy and doing everything I need to do to get it back to being 100 percent.”
His leg isn’t the only thing that has built strength over the past 12 months. So too has his confidence.
The rising junior said he is much more sure of himself as a quarterback and a team leader after the growing pains that came along with his rookie season.
“I guess, if I sound more confident, it’s because I’ve got that one whole year under my belt,” he said. “You kind of get the feel for it. After a year you kind of get the feeling for it, you just kind of begin to trust yourself more. I’m becoming a better leader. My work ethic is better. Usually when you start working hard, people see it and they begin to fall in line with you. It just helps you to be able to be more vocal with them.”
Trusting Brown to develop into a championship-caliber quarterback, a la 2013 graduate Trent Earl, a signal-caller who began his career as a sophomore eventually ending it with a region crown and historic win over powerhouse Griffin, is something Whitley never had trouble doing.
“We’ve always had great confidence in Malachi’s ability,” said Whitley, who is entering his fifth year at Stockbridge. “He’s coming along as a leader. We see a lot of similarities with him and what Trent was able to do. He’s becoming a leader on this team, and we’re expecting great things from him.”
Although Stockbridge’s offense is primarily predicated upon running the ball, Brown said he’s been working double time on perfecting his passing game — which might not be a bad idea, considering Brown is the team’s leading returning rusher.
Back-to-back 1,000-yard rusher Malik Bryant and speedster Maetron Thomas have both graduated, along Javon Brandon, the safety/quarterback who spelled Brown for the rest of the season after the injury.
That means Stockbridge may find it tempting to test the waters a bit in its passing game, which would be just fine with Brown.
“When we have to throw it, I think we’re going to do big things,” Brown said. “We’ve got guys like Jacob Pinch on the outside, and several others who are good receivers fighting for positions. Plus I’ve been working a lot on my throwing.”
Pinch said he’s noticed the improvement.
“I don’t see any drop off in Malachi,” Pinch said after a late spring practice. “I think he’s healed and ready. I think our offense is really going to do some good things.”