tampabay.com

Right time to return to the game

With their team-leading stats, you would never know Plant seniors Kevin McCarthy and Dylan Brown spent years away from football.

By KEITH NIEBUHR
Published November 4, 2005


TAMPA - Bob Weiner has no problem admitting the truth. When the Plant coach lobbied Dylan Brown and Kevin McCarthy to join the team, he had no idea what they could do.

"They were unknown commodities," Weiner said. "We were just trying to get bodies out there."

The Panthers got more than that.

On a team that is a surprising 7-2 entering tonight's regular-season finale at Robinson, Brown and McCarthy, who both are 6 feet 2 and 200 pounds, have had immeasurable impacts.

Brown, a receiver, leads the team with 28 catches for 569 yards and is a dangerous return man. McCarthy, a defensive end, has produced a squad-best 19 sacks and 27 tackles for loss.

"They've added so much to our program," Weiner said.

Newcomers often have success, but what makes Brown and McCarthy unique is both are seniors. Neither had played a down since they were members of the Plant junior varsity team in 2002.

Each had his reasons for dropping football.

As a freshman, Brown, who considered himself a baseball player first, hurt his shoulder while playing quarterback and missed most of the school's baseball games the following spring.

"After that," Brown said, "I was very cautious."

Brown decided to concentrate solely on baseball, which wasn't what you'd call a bad move. He developed into a top-notch outfielder and has committed to national power Oklahoma State.

McCarthy quit for different reasons.

As a JV player, he saw little playing time and figured he had a better future in wrestling. McCarthy also had academics on his mind.

"I didn't have that great of a year," McCarthy said. "I didn't even start. I played football, wrestled and ran track. I got straight A's, but it was stressful. The next year I was taking three (advanced placement) classes, so I wanted to concentrate on school."

McCarthy stuck with wrestling and became a state-qualifying performer. In the class, his grade point average rose steadily (he carries a 6.72 and scored 1510 on the SAT).

Despite their successes, however, to each something was missing. At football games last fall, both started having similar thoughts and began to wonder, Have I made a mistake?

"It was a little sad," McCarthy said. "I wanted to be out there."

Friends began pushing them. And Weiner nudged them.

Finally, both joined the team.

"It was just a feeling that came to me," Brown said.

For each, it has been a fall to remember. Brown is an offensive star; McCarthy is a defensive force. And low and behold, both players are considering a future that involves football.

"I'm so happy," McCarthy said. "This team has really become part of my family. It's funny ... six month ago, I was wondering whether I'd start."