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Keondre Brown (5) Jesse Craig (17)

Walker High safety Keondre Brown (5) attempts to break up a pass from Scotlandville High quarterback Jesse Craig's (17).

WALKER – Keondre Brown had conditioned himself for the time away from the playing field on Friday nights.

Or so he thought.

Brown tried to become the best teammate he could, supporting Walker High’s football team while standing idle on the sideline over an 11-week span that ended with a first-round loss at Landry-Walker in the Class 5A state playoffs.

It was excruciating.

“I thought I was ready for it,” Brown said. “But as the season went on and our team needed other players to step up, I knew I should have been that guy, but I wasn’t able to play. I’ve never had a sit out a whole year before. Sitting and watching everybody have fun playing the game they love was hard.”

While sitting out to regain his eligibility after a transfer from Denham Springs High, Brown was an actual part of the team, serving as a valuable member of Walker’s scout team defense.

Brown was locked in daily practice battles with standout receivers Darius Hampton (now a preferred walk-on at UL-Lafayette) and current junior wide receiver Jalen Cook, trying to provide the Wildcats' first-team offense with a look at that week’s opponent.

There was still a big gap from Brown’s perspective between helping to prepare his teammates for Friday nights and suiting up to play alongside them in the pursuit of victory.

“The kids did a good job embracing him,” Walker interim coach Cecil Thomas said. “He knew most of these guys. That’s probably what got him through. They were all supportive of him. He was with the team all the time, he just couldn’t suit up on Friday nights.”

That disappointment has been replaced by an overwhelming sense of fulfillment.

Brown, who also didn’t play freshman football while at Denham Springs, has returned to the football field, where he’s had tremendous impact on Walker’s defense, along with a rotational role on offense, as the Wildcats (5-1 overall, 1-1 in District 4-5A) host Belaire (1-5, 0-3) for homecoming at 7 p.m. Thursday.

“He can play a bunch of different positions on both sides,” Thomas said of Brown, an outside linebacker/safety and running back. “He will probably see more (offensive) touches as we keep going forward. He’s a very special athlete. He’s a strong kid. If he does it right, he’s got ability to play at the next level.”

Growing up with a distinct love for basketball Brown, the nephew of former DSHS and LSU standout Tasmin Mitchell, always envisioned himself focusing on his first true love.

He said he first started playing football in the third grade and continued until eighth grade, when he decided to focus on basketball at DSHS.

“I was more into basketball then, but I realized football may be my ticket out and started playing football,” Brown said. “I didn’t see my success in football as everyone else did. In basketball, I had a whole lot of awards, but people kept telling me I had a future in football and I didn’t believe them.”

Brown spent part of his childhood living in Walker, which included attending Westside Middle School, before moving to Denham Springs and attending his freshman year at DSHS before returning to Walker following the Great Flood of 2016, he said.

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Walker at Dutchtown football Keondre Brown

Walker High's outside linebacker Keondre Brown (5), has been solid against the run, registering 11 tackles in his varsity debut against Dutchtown. He also added a 35-yard interception return for a TD in the same game.

Brown grew up around some of his current teammates such as Cook and Brian Thomas, playing on the same AAU basketball team – Madisonville Extreme – in the 5th-6th grades, so his return to Walker and being around childhood friends made for a smooth transition.

“Sitting out, it’s emotional,” he said. “I knew coming back I thought I had a lot of work to do. I know the feeling without the game and it wasn’t fun.”

With the return of several key players on defense, a group that included strong safety BJ Lockhart, linebacker Cade Seymour defensive end Ke’Andre Ventress and defensive back Calvin Watson, Thomas said Brown has been the perfect fit for a defense built on speed and aggressiveness.

Brown, a 6-foot, 200-pounder, has displayed the ability to give Walker a physical presence against the run, along with athleticism and coverage skills.

Brown’s impact was felt in the team’s season opener, as he returned an interception 30 yards for a touchdown in a 35-18 victory over Dutchtown. He matched the feat in the school’s first win over Scotlandville – 50-22 – with a second-quarter interception return for 30 yards.

“My teammates and my dad always told me to keep my head up,” Brown said “To get back out there, it’s been great. It feels like it always has, to play on Fridays and playing the game with my brothers.”