Luke Brown has a pep in his step as North Hall kicks off the season Saturday morning against Paulding County in Gainesville. He is back to full health and ready to put his surgically-repaired right leg to the test in 2020 for the Trojans.
Even after a terrible offseason injury, the North Hall junior kicker is strong and aiming to make a field goal from 60 yards this season — a distance many Division-I college kickers would struggle to convert.
However, setting sky-high expectations is just how Brown’s mind works.
The fact that Brown is playing so soon after a sledding accident in the snow on February 8 is a reflection of his resolve. Luke said his parents, Alicia and Cread Brown, have been his biggest supporters during this entire chapter of his life.
“This injury certainly made me realize how much I love football,” said Brown, whose longest field goal in high school is 43 yards against Fannin County in 2019.
North Hall’s kicker had a broken tibia, fibula and ankle after he hit a log while using a kayak as a sled on that cold winter day. He flipped his vessel and had his leg pinned under a tree root, leaving him in excruciating pain and requiring surgery the same night at Northeast Georgia Medical Center that resulted in two plates and 17 screws being inserted in his leg to repair the damage.
Right away, Brown was wondering if he’d ever be able to kick this season.
Almost seven months later, the answer is a resounding yes.
Not only is he kicking it further than ever, but he’s putting kickoffs through the back of the end zone more than 50 percent of the time, he said.
Given his offseason, it’s a testament to his fortitude and resilience.
While the entire country was trying to figure out how to navigate life during the coronavirus pandemic, Brown was also trying to recover from a serious leg injury that put his football career in jeopardy.
With much of the second half of the school year spent online for everyone, Brown was able to begin his rehabilitation with home-based learning and several days each week of rigorous physical therapy.
Nothing was going to keep him from playing football again, even though he said it did leave him regularly feeling frustrated with the long road ahead to regain the ability to kick a football well.
Brown’s progress was slow and steady.
First, he had to get around with crutches.
Then in April, he started dabbling with kicking a Nerf football in his backyard.
After that process felt comfortable, he moved on to using a rubber kickball.
Once the time felt right, Brown was tinkering with field goals from 15 yards, which is shorter than an extra point, with the assistance of his father at North Hall’s stadium.
As the leg healed, Brown, who is also a track sprinter in the spring for the Trojans, started to move it back a couple yards at a time.
Once summer came around and the Trojans got into practice, Brown was able to put it all together.
His longest made field goal in practice this summer was 57 yards.
That just serves as positive reinforcement that his recovery is ahead of schedule.
Now, Luke is working to fine-tune the 1.3-second process from the time the ball is snapped to when he puts his right foot into the ball.
Brown’s biggest influence kicking is former Georgia kicker Rodrigo Blankenship, who previously helped the younger kicker on his footwork and streamlining the kicking process for optimum results.
Brown feels like he’s back on track to chase his dreams of kicking at the college level.
Cherokee Bluff vs. Johnson, 7:30 p.m.
Gainesville at Stockbridge, 7:30 p.m.
West Hall vs. Jackson County, 7:30 p.m.
Flowery Branch vs. St. Pius X (8:30 p.m.) Peachtree TV
North Hall vs. Paulding County (11 a.m.)