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Coach watches Tiger scrimmage from stands

Published on -4/22/2012, 7:31 PM

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Fort Hays State University second-year football coach Chris Brown was at home doing yard work several days ago when he noticed a few spots on his leg.

Brown believed it was a normal rash from a spray used on the weeds. The next morning, Brown woke up and noticed more spots on his ear, tongue and mouth. The spots had spread all the way up his leg.

Brown immediately knew his idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP) had returned. ITP is a condition of having an abnormally low platelet count, an illness he had in high school 20 years ago.

"It's an immune deficiency where it just attacks the platelets and kill them off," he said.

Brown had not had any symptoms since. He checked in to the hospital Monday, had some blood taken and his platelets checked and came out to practice Wednesday. Brown had his blood checked every day.

On Saturday, Brown observed the second of three spring scrimmages from the Lewis Field Stadium stands.

He couldn't be near any balls or players.

"I feel fine," he said. "There is really no symptoms of it. You don't feel bad at all. You just can't get hit. You can't get hit in any vital organs or you could bleed to death internally, which is kind of scary."

Brown watched his Tigers have another strong showing offensively and defensively, but again struggled with special teams in windy conditions.

Fort Hays' spring game will be next Saturday at 10 a.m., and will last approximately 90 minutes.

"I thought actually we did pretty well," Brown said. "Our main concern right now is our kicking game. I know we had a little bit of a gust today, but those are things that we have got to overcome. A few bad snaps."

"But I thought overall, defense came out really strong early, but I thought offense came back really well and did a good job," he added. "I thought we competed very well and saw good things on both sides of the ball. Saw guys flying around to the ball. I thought we were more physical today than I have seen all spring. I was pretty pleased with our performance today."

Senior Tyler Kimbrough, entering his third season as the Tigers' kicker, struggled kicking into the wind and missed multiple kicks from 30 to 40 yards. Fort Hays used Eric Jusko and All-American Ethan Kosjer at long snapper and punter, respectively, last fall. Both players have graduated.

Senior Logan Jones is expected to be the short snapper on field goals and extra points, while redshirt freshman tight end Zack Gaughan and junior Alex McMillian have shared time at long snapper. Brown would like to see more consistency on snaps and kicks. As well, sometimes the holder has dropped the ball.

"We actually have to keep our head down and kick through it," he said. "Same thing with our punts. Our punts have got to be a little bit more consistent than they are right now."

Senior Anthony Sheppard and junior transfer Tarean Austin continued to split time at quarterback. Sheppard, known for his speed, scored a touchdown on a run, but missed wide-open junior Keaton Callins in the end zone that would have resulted in another score. The experienced offensive line and running game with senior Andre Smith and juniors Ed Smith and Shaun Ohlde was solid again. Last year, the Tigers rushed for 189.2 yards and averaged 4.7 yards per carry, easily the best marks by FHSU since they switched to the MIAA six seasons ago.

"It was pretty good," Andre Smith, who rushed for a team-high 963 yards last fall, said. "We are starting to bring it all together. Line is starting to make the blocks, we are starting to make the reads. It went pretty smooth. We have a couple things that we need to fix, but for the most part, we have seen some positives in this scrimmage."

Brown, a Liberal native, discovered he had ITP in high school when he was hit by a baseball and noticed the spotting. He first thought it was a rash, mononucleosis or a cold. For about a month, Brown didn't do anything before he went to Wichita and was checked in. He didn't have the ITP again until last week.

"They don't know what caused it," he said. "They can't really explain it. They don't know why it comes back. Some people have it happen to them every year. Some people it's five years, and for some people, it never comes back. They don't have any idea."

Brown will have his blood checked again today. How Brown tests determines the number of times he'll need to see a doctor next week.

"They want me to avoid all contact if at all possible. Even something like that I could bruise," Brown said after flicking his thumb in the air. "Even if I get hit by a ball in the head or a ball in the chest, it could just cause internal bleeding. I'll be all right. I'm tough."

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