Hen’s Brown beats the odds

Senior cornerback Malcolm Brown was all smiles on Delaware’s first day of preseason camp earlier this month.
(Delaware sports information/Mark Campbell)

NEWARK — Malcolm Brown had simply jumped into the air.

But when the Delaware cornerback landed, it felt like someone had kicked him in the back of his right leg.

“Right then, I was terrified, to be honest,” Brown admits, “because I didn’t know what was wrong.”

Later that day, an MRI test delivered the grim news: Brown had ruptured his Achilles tendon. Two days later, he underwent surgery.

Nobody could tell the senior-to-be when — or even if — he’d be able to play football again. The injury occurred on Feb. 20 during a winter workout.

“I got told a year, I got told seven and eight months,” said Brown, rattling off the estimates. “I got told, you might not be ready for the season. You might not be able to play at all this season.”

So imagine how good Brown felt on Friday when he was officially cleared to play in the Blue Hens’ season opener against Rhode Island on Aug. 30 — a little over six months after his surgery.

“This means the world to me, just being able to be back out here,” Brown said after the Hens practiced in Delaware Stadium on Saturday morning.

Brown’s teammates were pretty excited for the 6-foot-1, 200-pounder, who had already missed the 2016 season because of a broken jaw.

The Hens’ Malcolm Brown leaps to defend a pass in a win at Stony Brook last season. (Delaware sports information/Mark Campbell)

“You’re surprised but you’re not surprised,” linebacker Troy Reeder said about Brown’s quick recovery. “He’s done it before. He has time and time again defeated adversity.

“Really, it’s almost like the more adversity he faces, the harder he works. … God challenges people in mysterious ways. Unfortunately, he’s been challenged a lot more than a lot of people have. He’s out there full-go, He looks better than he did before his injury.”

“His story is a very special story to all of us,” said Delaware coach Danny Rocco. “What he has endured, what he has overcome. He’s kind of the same guy every day. He handles success the same way he deals with adversity.”

There’s probably no one reason for Brown’s fast return — other than he worked really hard at it.

After the surgery, recovery is probably just as mental as it is physical.

“It really came down to just attacking the rehab,” said Brown, “and not settling, not sitting around moping about it. Because I didn’t have time to waste if I wanted to play this year.”

For Brown, rehab meant doing things like getting more sleep, eating better, keeping his weight off his leg as much as possible, all to help the injury heal faster. He was on a scooter for six weeks.

It also meant spending a lot of time in the trainer’s room at the Carpenter Center.

“I know I was wearing these guys out,” said Brown, referring to the trainers. “They probably saw me more than they wanted to these last few months. But it’s a great staff and I appreciate them.”

When Reeder first heard about Brown’s injury, “I was sick,” said the senior.

At the same time, Reeder said Brown never lost contact with the team. He was always around during spring practice.

Reeder said Brown never had any doubts he’d be back, either.

“It wasn’t a question to him,” said Reeder. “Every time you asked him, ‘Hey Malcolm, what’s the time frame?,’ he’d go, ‘Well, the doctor says nine months but I’ll be back in seven months,’ or ‘I’ll be back in six months.’ It was just his mentality and how he attacked the rehab.”

Now Delaware is looking forward to seeing what Brown can do when the Hens are playing for real. Brown has started 20 of the 33 games he’s played in his career.

He’s been in on 101 tackles with four interceptions.

There’s even some talk of some NFL interest, if Brown can prove he’s fully recovered from his injury.

But all Brown cares about is that he gets to play again.

“It feels good to be back out here,” said Brown. “That’s all that the rehab was for — to be out here with these guys.”

Extra points

Rocco said he wasn’t ready to name a starting quarterback for the URI game yet. J.P. Caruso and Pat Kehoe continue to get the most first-team reps although Darius Wade did see a little more scrimmage action on Saturday. … True freshman Anthony Paoletti showed some impressive arm strength on a long throw late in the session. … The Hens’ last preseason scrimmage is slated for Tuesday at 7 p.m. … Kicker Frank Raggo hit a 50-yard field goal with room to spare on Saturday. … Rocco said Delaware’s defense is ahead of the offense right now. “We’ve got days where we really do look good offensively, we’re in sync, we’ve got weapons,” he said. “We’ve got other days where the defense just kind of comes out here and owns the day.”

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