Dante Brown’s start to his college football career could have ended up being a nightmarish situation for the Canadian kicker.
Not long after Brown completed his freshman season at Saint Joseph’s College in Indiana, the school was unceremoniously shut down due to financial reasons.
By that point, he had already requested his release and was in search of a place to transfer.
Brown ended up finding a much better fit the second time around, immediately becoming a valuable asset for Fort Hays State last year at punter.
“Saint Joe’s was an interesting situation,” Brown said. “I think I lot of guys that came out of that situation ended up in better places. I think a lot of them would say it was a blessing in disguise. I never would have thought I would have ended up in Hays, Kansas, but I’m here. We won a conference championship.
“I’m part of a program that’s helped me out a lot, and I think I’ve helped out as well. I think it’s a good fit for me here.”
After things fell through at Saint Joseph’s, Brown said it was a painstaking process to find his next opportunity. He originally had looked into playing Canadian college football before Fort Hays State came into the picture late.
“It was really just starting my recruiting process all over again,” said Brown, a junior from Mississauga, Ontario who played a year at a prep academy in Canada. “It’s sort of like high school. You’re calling coaches and trying to get in touch with people and getting into camps. It’s stressful because you don’t really know where you’re going to end up and where you’re going to be able to play football again.
"Fort Hays really came in at the last second and gave me an opportunity and I’m very grateful for it.”
Brown took advantage, earning third-team All-MIAA honors for the MIAA champion Tigers last year after averaging 43.5 yards per attempt as a sophomore.
This year Brown is pulling double duty by handling both punting and place-kicking responsibilities. He is 5 of 6 on field goal attempts and is averaging 41.5 yards per punt. He tied FHSU’s school record with an 84-yard punt in the season opener against Central Missouri.
“It’s going pretty well,” Brown said. “I’d like to be a little bit more consistent on the punting side. Still waiting to get back to the standard I used to be for that. But the task hasn’t been too much.
“In high school I did both. Getting back to being conditioned to be able to both really wasn’t too much of a jump. About a week into camp I was pretty good with it.”
Tiger coach Chris Brown said he’s been pleased with how Dante Brown has handled the increased workload.
“He’s done well with it,” Chris Brown said. “That’s a lot of high-pressure situations. You get a shanked punt, it gives the opponent great field position. You miss a long field goal, same thing.
“He’s stepped up in some high-pressure situations and made some very nice kicks. He’s made some long ones, too. I’m proud of him. ... I’m very pleased with his performance so far.”
Brown’s only real hiccup was a line-drive punt against Missouri Western that was returned for a touchdown in the Tigers’ 23-13 loss to the Griffons. But he redeemed himself last week against Washburn, connecting on a 42-yard field goal and turning in a solid punting outing.
“I was coming into last week’s game really trying to, not really make up for (the Western game), but get back to the standard I’m used to performing at and hold myself to a higher standard,” Brown said. "Going 100 percent on kicking was good for me.”
Lately, Brown has been utilizing the rugby style of punting.
“It’s something I’ve adapted to since being here,” Brown said. “With the athleticism and changing the block point, it helps our team be able to cover down field and really minimizes the returns a lot more. I kind of like it. It gets me to be able to roll out and frees up the special teams to be able to do a few things instead of being confined to the tackle box like we do for the normal punt.”
Brown said it was a blessing to join Fort Hays State at a time when the program was able to reach new heights.
“It’s been a lot fun, I can’t lie,” Brown said. “We put in the work, for sure. It wasn’t an easy road to win a conference championship. But, I mean, who doesn’t love winning?”
Brown and Tigers (2-1) will take play Missouri Southern (0-3) at 6 p.m. on Saturday in Joplin, Mo.