Between the Egg Bowl upset, the head coach search that landed on Matt Luke and the looming NCAA sanctions, the Ole Miss football program has produced a lot of news in the past week. Tuesday night was no exception when wide receiver A.J. Brown was awarded the C Spire Conerly Trophy, given annually to the best college football player in the state of Mississippi.
The standout receiver continued his breakout performance from a year ago into his sophomore campaign, and he was clearly deserving of the award. His numbers were not only some of the best in school history, but they rivaled those of nearly all receivers in the country. Throughout the year, Brown hauled in 75 catches for 1,252 yards and 11 touchdowns and broke the record for single-season receiving yards at Ole Miss. Joining Laquon Treadwell and Shay Hodge, he was one of three players to ever reach the 1,000-yard mark in a season for the Rebels. Adding to his accolades, his 11 touchdowns tied with Treadwell for the most in a season, and today, Brown looks to his predecessor for motivation.
“Every day I saw it during the summer, I would say, ‘Sorry, but you are coming down,’” Brown said about Treadwell’s school record. “It is just second nature that I will come back next year and try to break my own.”
Even though he left the game against Cal early and only had one catch for 6 yards against Alabama, he still averaged 104.3 yards a game, which was sixth-best in the country and best in the SEC. His total yardage was fifth-best in the country.
Two games that highlighted the sophomore phenom’s season came against South Alabama and Mississippi State. In the opening game of 2017 against the Jaguars, he caught eight passes for 233 yards and two touchdowns. In the final game of 2017, he racked up 167 yards and a touchdown in his hometown of Starkville en route to an upset Egg Bowl win. However, his season as a whole can be considered a highlight reel.
Voted on by the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame, Brown beat out players from the other nine universities that play football in the state. Most notably, Brown topped Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald and Southern Miss running back Ito Smith. Brown was honored to receive this award over the best the state has to offer.
“It is really special to win it because those guys were the other finalists,” Brown said. “Especially Nick because he is a great quarterback, and then Ito Smith. I honestly didn’t think I was going to win.”
After Mississippi State won three consecutive awards, Evan Engram won for the Rebels in 2016 and Ole Miss has its first ever repeat win with Brown’s honors this year. Other Rebels to bring home the prestigious award are Bo Wallace, Patrick Willis, Deuce McAllister and Stewart Patridge. In addition, Eli Manning was awarded the award twice during his time at Ole Miss.
After his historic year, Brown is already being regarded as one of the top receivers ever to play at Ole Miss, and adding this trophy to a laundry list of accolades has him on a path to be the best player to ever suit up for the Rebels. But only time will tell.