Antoine Brown had it made. At 5-foot-10 and 185-pounds, the running back from Portage, Indiana was coming into his senior season having rushed for 2,035 yards and 32 touchdowns as a junior. The talented dual sport athlete was named 1st team junior all-state in 2003 and was destined for more his senior season, being named as a pre-season all-state candidate in the Hoosier State. It was just another chapter in a career that has seen him be named all-conference, all-area, Portage Times Offensive Player of the Year, Post Tribune Offensive Player of the Year, Junior all-state, all-state honorable mention and a Bloomington Herald Top 33 selection.
Having never met his father and being raised by a single mother whom gave birth to him while stationed in the Army in Germany, it was easy to see that there were better days ahead for Antoine Brown.
And after his final two quarters resulted in the honor roll for the first time in his career, you'd be hardpressed to find a reason why there wouldn't be.
Brown's senior season started and was looking to be finished, like the previous three.. After 11 games, Brown had broken all the school records he needed to eclipse and had led the Portage Indians to an 8-3 record and a trip to the Class 5A Sectional 1 Semifinal.
With just seconds remaining and having already iced the game with his 23-yard scamper, Brown and his teammates were already looking forward to the state championship and the week's ahead.
But in an instant that will probably be remembered as the day time stood still for the 5'10 running back, Brown was then carted off the field with 14 seconds left after having collided with a receiver while playing defensive back.
"My heart just stopped," teammate John Kornacki said to the Northwest Indiana Times following the game. "He's Superman. This can't happen to him."
The record setting back had broken his leg and in a scene reminiscent of the accident itself, Brown's collegiate scholarships went down with it. Having not made a verbal commitment to any of his choices, Brown soon saw the scary reality of recruiting.
"They all pulled out," Brown said. "As soon as I broke my leg, they all dropped out. I haven't heard from any of the schools that had offered since."
Kentucky, in desperate need of an impact running back, Wisconsin, and Northern Illinois had all extended offers at one time. Said Brown, whose team subsequentially lost the following round without him. "I haven't heard from anybody since. I've got some JUCO schools calling but they are last options for me. I am just starting things over and hopefully someone will take a chance on me."
Asked if there was a time table on his recovery, an obviously dejected Brown said: "Well, I'm still gonna be running track."
A track standout, Brown was the conference 100 meters champion the past two seasons posting a best time of 10.95 seconds. He also won the 200-meters as a junior with a time of 22.2 seconds.
With track a possible outlet to college, things seemed to be on track until tragedy once again hit the Brown family, The Lake Pointe Apartment complex where Brown lived with his mother, Althea was one of several units destroyed in a fire Wednesday afternoon, leaving Antoine with little more than his school letterman's jacket.
His entire collection of awards, ribbons, trophies of four years of athletic excellence had been destroyed with it.
"Everything they have is gone. The only thing they have is what's in their car," Portage football coach and assistant athletic director Craig Buzea told the Northwest Indiana Times. "Obviously, things aren't very good, but seeing how his mom is handling, it's outstanding. She's upbeat. They're very strong people. She's putting it in perspective. She works nights, what if Antoine had been sleeping? It's bad, but it possibly could have been worse."
This holiday season, as a community in Indiana unites in its attempt to help raise money for Antoine and his mother, one can only pray that the record setting running back from Portage, gets his opportunity to prove his worth yet again.