Texas Longhorns: 130710 Tales from the Road

SPLENDORA, Texas — The first time this year that coaches at Splendora (Texas) High School put a stopwatch on 2015 running back Jay Bradford, head coach Brad Milam was in disbelief.

It was February, and the coaches were doing offseason testing like many programs do. Included in those tests is the 40-yard dash. When Bradford exploded for a hand-timed 4.38 seconds, Milam refused to believe it was true. So he had Bradford run in another line and have another coach time him.

Again, it was in the 4.3-second range.

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ESPN 300 defensive back Tony Brown (Beaumont, Texas/Ozen) is a mama's boy through and through. His mother, Tammy Walker-Brown, will tell you so without hesitation.

But there isn’t a voice on this earth that resonates more with Brown than his namesake father’s.

That’s precisely what has made the last year of Brown’s life the most difficult of the 17 he has lived: the silence.

[+] EnlargeTony Brown
Tom Hauck for Student SportsTop 2014 defensive back Tony Brown turned heads at The Opening with his elite athleticism.
His father suffered a stroke before the first day of the 2012-2013 school year. He could no longer speak.

After the stroke came a five-week long medically induced coma. Once the medicine stopped, he stayed in a coma for another six weeks.

All the while, silence. Still to this day, silence.

Silence through the most important and eventful year of Brown’s young but incredibly promising career.

Not only is Brown one of the most sought-after recruits in the country, with football royalty such as Mack Brown, Nick Saban and Les Miles in hot pursuit, he’s also one of the top hurdlers in the world. He’ll represent the United States at the 2013 Pan American Junior Athletics Championship in Medellin, Columbia, from Aug. 23-25.

Just last week, Brown's father moved back into their home for the first time since the stroke. He will be screaming in spirit as his son competes against the world’s best. It’s about all he can muster for the time being.

Tony Brown Sr. will gain the ability to speak again, his doctors say. When he does -- they say speech is often the last thing to return to a stroke survivor -- he’ll be able to commend his son for conquering the past year with dignity and perseverance.

Coping with a stroke

The events that would alter the course of Brown’s family happened, not surprisingly, with the younger Brown in the weight room and the elder Brown, then Ozen’s defensive coordinator, in the coach’s office game-planning for the 2012 season opener.

“One of the coaches came out and said I needed to call my mom,” Brown said. “I walked in to where they were and he looked like he was just passed out. His eyes were open and he couldn’t talk. We didn’t think it was anything serious. He didn’t eat anything for breakfast that morning, so I was thinking maybe he needed some sugar.”

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