WILTON — It didn’t take Marlon Brown long to make an impression on his new coach. It happened before he even stepped on the field last season for the Norwalk football team.
“The first time I saw him he was walking through the parking lot with his mom, and I didn’t know who he was but I saw him walk and I was like, who is this kid,” said Bears coach Sean Ireland. “It was Marlon. He has the body of a Greek god. He’s a physical specimen and he just eats, breathes and loves the game of football. He has gotten so much better from the first day of practice last year up until now.”
Ireland is setting the bar high for his slot back and middle linebacker, touting him as one of the FCIAC’s breakout players.
“Anything less than All-FCIAC would be a shame and he should be getting looks for All-State,” Ireland said. “He’s that good of a player.”
Brown moved to Norwalk last year from Queens, N.Y., uncertain what to expect, on and off the field.
I didn’t know Connecticut existed,” Brown said with a smile during a break at yesterday’s Wilton Jamboree. “When I came here I just reached out to the coach. I realized the offense and defense were really more advanced here. I just had to adjust, work hard. It was tougher than Queens.”
Brown had a strong junior season. He rushed for 450 yards and two scores, and added a touchdown reception. He was also among the team leaders in tackles.
“I could have done better but I learned from my mistakes,” Brown said. “Last year was my first year playing running back so I had no experience. I learned from what I should have done. I feel more comfortable.”
Ireland feels the Bears, coming off a 4-6 season, could be the FCIAC’s sleeper this fall. For that to happen, players like Brown are going to have to build on their past contributions.
“If we stay healthy we could be pretty good,” Ireland said. “We have zero depth. Our starters are very good.”
AJ Hall, who had 67 receptions for 1,042 yards and seven touchdowns, will be among the state’s best players and the Bears’ most dangerous weapon. The offensive line returns four starters. And Ireland believes a defense that gave up 34 points a game will be improved.
Brown will again be making a move on offense, to slot back opposite Hall. That will offer Ireland diversity for his play calling and make it easier on Kyle Gordon, the team’s sophomore quarterback. Brown will be taking the spot of Deandre Russell, who was a multi-purpose threat.
“I just have to make catches,” Brown said. “I’ve never played receiver in my life.”
It is on defense, however, where Brown is most likely to dominate.
“He’s just a leader,” Ireland said. “If you watch him he’s going to make sure every single person is lined up in the right spot, he’s the captain, he’s the quarterback of our defense. Big, strong, fast and physical. He’s a student of the game. He’s everything you want in a football player.”
The Bears have a difficult schedule, but have the opportunity to get off to a good start and set a positive tone. They open on the road with a non-league game against Hamden, then host Westhill and Fairfield Ludlowe.
Brown is aware of the expectations this season and said he is excited about the challenge.
“I’m captain of the defense and I feel comfortable leading our guys out there and making plays,” Brown said. “I have to make sure everyone knows what they have to do. We have young guys at linebacker. Hopefully I can be a big factor but I am hoping the team can make a big impact.”