AJC’s all-classification football player of the year: Sammy Brown of Jefferson

Jefferson linebacker Sammy Brown during the 2023 AJC Super 11 photo shoot Monday, July 24, 2023, in Jefferson, Ga. Brown is verbally committed to Clemson. (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

Credit: Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Credit: Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Jefferson linebacker Sammy Brown during the 2023 AJC Super 11 photo shoot Monday, July 24, 2023, in Jefferson, Ga. Brown is verbally committed to Clemson. (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)


High school running backs with 2,289 yards rushing and 40 touchdowns on 13-1 teams are natural candidates for Georgia player of the year. So are five-star linebackers who make 153 tackles and sign with Clemson.

Sammy Brown, a senior at Jefferson, was both.

“He does everything you can ask a football player to do,” Jefferson coach Travis Noland said. “He played over 125 snaps every game. He covered kicks. He was our punter. He threw touchdown passes. At one point, our tight end was hurt, and he said, ‘You know, if you need me, I’ll go up there and play tight end.’ To me, he’s the epitome of what a total football player is.”

Brown, the AJC’s all-classification player of the year, is among the more versatile and accomplished football players – and athletes – in state history.

The consensus No. 2 linebacker prospect nationally, Brown is 6 feet, 3 inches, 235 pounds. His best time in the 100 meters is 10.69 seconds, faster than many wide receivers.

Brown played his freshman football season at Commerce, a Class A school where his father, Mike, was the head coach and an alumnus. Sammy rushed for 1,368 yards, made first-team all-state and led the Tigers to their first region title in 17 years. Brown played his final three seasons at nearby Jefferson, a Class 5A school that afforded him better competition, and won two more region titles.

For his career, Brown rushed for 5,859 yards and scored 96 touchdowns. He made more than 300 tackles. As a punter this season, he averaged 44.5 yards with 12 of his 32 attempts downed inside the 20-yard line.

Brown was a two-time state wrestling champion at Jefferson in the 215- and 285-pound divisions. In track and field, he won the state 400 meters at Commerce and placed in the 100 and 200 meters and long jump. He might have done more in those sports but graduated early to enroll at Clemson and join the Tigers for Gator Bowl practices.

Opposing high school football coaches tell similar stories about their attempts to mitigate him.

In a 35-12 playoff victory against 10th-ranked Harris County, Brown carried 37 times for 259 yards and four touchdowns and had 10 solo tackles and eight assists.

“I’ve done this for 23 years and seen some really good football players, some still in the NFL, and he’s probably the best I’ve ever coached against honestly,” Harris County coach Tommy Watson said. “What makes him special is how big and strong he is and then to be that fast. If he stays healthy, he’ll play football for a long time.”

Against seventh-ranked Hiram in the second round, Brown rushed for 354 yards and four touchdowns, threw a 9-yard touchdown pass, intercepted a pass and totaled 16 tackles, three behind the line of scrimmage. Jefferson won 42-21 after trailing at halftime.

“I’ve been coaching for about 20 years, and I have never seen a young man impact a game in so many phases like he does and with such toughness,” Hiram coach Peter Fominaya said. “We tried to hit him on defense, but he kept getting stronger. We tried to block him on offense, but he’d go around over and through blocks to make plays.”

Fominaya also complimented Brown’s character.

“Usually when you get around five stars, there’s an arrogance about them,” Fominaya said. “With that young man, I didn’t see it. He was talking with everybody after the game, shaking hands, ‘Good game, good game.’”

Jefferson’s Noland has coached at three Georgia schools, leading each to region titles, and sent several players to major Division I programs. None was better than Brown.

“We’ll never be able to replace that,” Noland said. “I know there are some great players in the state, but I don’t think there are any more well-rounded and can do as many things as he did for our team.”