TOPEKA — When things looked bleak for the playing of the 47th edition of the Kansas Shrine Bowl, Hays High product Hayden Brown tried to remain positive in hopes the game could still occur.
Now, Brown is savoring every bit of the experience as he prepares to play for the West squad in Saturday’s 7 p.m. game at Topeka’s Hummer Sports Park.
"I was just keeping hope up, hoping that it would happen," Brown said. "Turns out it happened, and I’m very happy that it did. I’m excited to play on Saturday."
Training camp for the teams began this past Sunday in Topeka, with the Shine Bowl committee putting in several safety precautions amid the coronavirus pandemic. The players wear masks at most times when not practicing and have their temperatures taken daily.
After discussions with his family, Brown said he felt comfortable participating in the event.
"I’ve had conversations with my parents and everyone, but ultimately I feel like we did a good job and the Shrine Bowl Committee did a good job of keeping us safe here and we have a good plan here," Brown said.
Brown, who will play for his father, Chris Brown, at Fort Hays State, said he’s eager to represent Hays High in the game. He produced over 2,000 career rushing yards and over 1,000 career receiving yards with 32 touchdowns and 3 kickoff return touchdowns in his HHS career.
"I feel a lot of pride because Hays High’s done a lot for me and I’ve always loved Hays High," Brown said. "So it’s nice to go represent them one more time."
Brown said he’s enjoyed getting to know other top players around the state.
"I’ve had a great time just meeting and being around a bunch of guys that just love to play the game," Brown said "It’s just nice having a bunch of teammates that are all-star level."
He expects to be in good shape for Saturday.
"It’s helped out a lot going to Fort Hays weights and lifting in the morning there," Brown said. "That really helped me stay in shape. I feel like I’m in pretty good shape for the game."
He said it hasn’t been difficult for his team to grasp the plays and get prepared.
"I think it comes pretty easy because we have a group of smart players here that know how to play football and love to play the game," Brown said. "So it comes along pretty easy when we have a bunch of all-star players."
Brown will likely see most of his action at running back in Saturday’s game. He wasn’t sure if he would also play receiver or other positions.
"Just whatever the coaches need me to do," Brown said. "Whatever it takes to win."
Brown is one of seven area players who will play for the West squad, along with Plainville’s Jordan Finnesy, Norton’s Judson Wiltfong and Kade Melvin, Colby’s Calvin Stapp, St. Francis’ Brady Dinkel and Smith Center’s Joel Montgomery.
Norton coach Lucas Melvin is an assistant for the West.
Check hdnews.net for more coverage of this week’s Shrine Bowl participants.