D2Football.com announced on Tuesday (Apr. 7) its All-Decade Team for 2010-2019. The team consists of 50 of the finest players from Division II over the past decade. Fort Hays State kicker Dante Brown was one of the 50 named to the team, earning a second-team selection at kicker.
Brown, a Mississauga, Ontario native, joins Greg Zuerlein as the two kickers listed on the All-Decade Team, both representing the MIAA. On an interesting note, Brown and Zuerlein's collegiate stories have similar pathways.
Zuerlein closed out his collegiate career at Missouri Western in 2011, displaced when Nebraska-Omaha discontinued its football program in the spring of 2011 as a part of its move to NCAA Division I. Nebraska-Omaha was also a member of the MIAA at the time, so Zuerlein made the trek south on I-29, from Omaha to St. Joseph, to finish his collegiate career. He had the distinction of earning All-America honors at both schools (2009 at UNO, 2011 at MWSU), making 59 field goals and 169 PATs for 346 points over four years between the two schools. Zuerlein has gone on to a very successful career in the NFL, now a member of the Dallas Cowboys after eight straight seasons with the St. Louis/Los Angeles Rams. He made a 57-yard game-winning kick in the 2019 NFC Championship Game to send the Rams to the Super Bowl, the longest game-winning kick in NFL Playoff history.
When St. Joseph's College (Ind.) closed its doors in the spring of 2017, Brown, like Zuerlein, was left searching for a new place to play. St. Joseph's was a member of Division II, part of the Great Lakes Valley Conference. Brown was nearly committed to play in his native country of Canada at the University of Western Ontario as a defensive back, but Fort Hays State contacted Brown with an offer a couple weeks prior to the start of the 2017 season. Brown took the opportunity at FHSU and turned it into gold, earning All-America honors for the Tigers as both a kicker and punter over his final three years of collegiate football.
When Dante Brown arrived at FHSU, another Brown had a stronghold on the placekicker job, that being Brandon Brown, who went on to earn MIAA Special Teams Player of the Year and All-America Honorable Mention honors in 2017. While Brandon was closing out a solid two-year career for the Tigers with 182 total kicking points, Dante's mark on the program was just beginning. Though he didn't serve as placekicker his first year at FHSU, Dante made an immediate impact for the Tigers as a punter averaging 43.5 yards per attempt for the second-best average in program history. It also netted him his first All-America honor while wearing the Black and Gold, helping the Tigers to a perfect 11-0 regular season and the No. 1 seed in Super Region 3 of the NCAA Playoffs.
Though he made his presence known as a punter in 2017, Brown had a massive impact for the Tigers in 2018 by taking on the role of both kicker and punter. Brown decimated the FHSU record for kicking points in a season with 123, breaking Brandon Brown's mark of 94 set just one year earlier. He knocked through 28-of-33 field goal attempts and added 39 PATs that year, while also averaging a solid 41.4 yards on his 67 punt attempts for the season and tying the longest punt in FHSU history (an 84-yard bomb). Brown's numbers were staggering for the year, just two field goal makes shy of the NCAA Division II single-season record of 30. He earned MIAA Special Teams Player of the Year and All-America honors as a kicker from three organizations, while being named an All-America selection at both kicker and punter by the Don Hansen Football Committee. That netted him the distinction as Don Hansen's Division II National Special Teams Player of the Year, helping the Tigers to another appearance in the NCAA Playoffs.
Though Brown handed the workload at punter over to freshman Benjamin Donald in 2019, he closed out a signature career at FHSU at kicker by earning All-America honors from five organizations that included four first team selections. Named the National Special Teams Player of the Year by the Don Hansen Football Committee for a second-straight year, he made 19 field goals alongside 52 PATs for 109 points on the season. Brown is the only FHSU kicker in history to break the 100-point barrier in a season, accomplishing it twice. He finished with 232 points in two years of holding the kicker role at FHSU, coming up just 12 points shy of career points leader Drew O'Brien, who enjoyed a strong four-year kicking career for the Tigers from 2012-15. He also finished second on the career punting average list at FHSU, averaging 42.4 yards per attempt over two years in the punter role.
Both Brown and Zuerlein stamped their legacy in Division II lore against perennial powerhouse Northwest Missouri State. Zuerlein finished his collegiate career by knocking through three field goals over 50 yards for Missouri Western in an NCAA Playoff game against their bitter rivals from just 30 minutes north, though NWMSU went on to win the game by six. The trio of field goals included a career-long 58-yarder. Brown on the other hand, drilled a career-long, pressure-packed 56-yard field goal as the clock expired to force overtime against the Bearcats on November 9, 2019 at Lewis Field Stadium, though the Tigers went on to fall by three in the thriller. Brown closed out his career with 10 PATs a week later, not attempting a field goal in a 91-7 drubbing of Northeastern State. Both players have the distinction of making their longest collegiate field goals in games where they took their final field goal attempt, both against the same opponent.
Though Zuerlein has already enjoyed a long and successful professional career, Brown may be on the verge of just beginning his, drawing the attention of several professional leagues as a 2020 prospect. It may be just a matter of time before Dante Brown is kicking at the professional level as well.
Brown finished his decorated three-year career at FHSU as a two-time National Special Teams Player of the Year and saw his name on All-America lists 10 times (5 organizations in 2019, 3 organizations in 2018, and 1 organization in 2017). Below is Brown's full list of accolades at FHSU.