Kelly Donohoe heard the rumor, but the longtime Blue Springs High School football coach didn't think much of it.
But he kept hearing it over and over again – Rockhurst quarterback Ian Brown was moving to Blue Springs.
“You hear about kids moving to Rockhurst from out here in Eastern Jackson County,” Donohoe said, “but you never hear of a kid from Rockhurst moving to Blue Springs. But I kept hearing that Ian was moving to Blue Springs, and I was hearing it from some guys on the team.”
The Wildcats were fresh off a Class 6 state championship and had two question marks heading into the 2013 campaign – retooling the offensive line and finding a quarterback to replace all-state quarterback Wylson Lamb, who had graduated.
“You know, in matters like this, you don't talk to anyone until it's official, the kid and his family have moved to Blue Springs, the I's are dotted and the T's are crossed, and that's how I approached this,” Donohoe said.
“And when we found out that it was a done deal, I can't even tell you how excited I was. First and foremost, Ian is one of the classiest young men you will ever meet. I think it's pretty apparent that he's earned any recognition he's getting because he's a big reason we're going to the Dome Friday to try and win our second state championship in a row.”
Brown's family moved to Blue Springs before the start of the season after Brown shared time at quarterback for Rockhurst with T.J. Green and Ahmad Tyler last season. He even threw two touchdowns against Donohoe's Wildcats while playing for the Hawklets.
Now, it's difficult to tell who's more excited about his new football home, the coach, Brown or his wide receivers.
“Ian and I hit it off right away,” said wide receiver Darrius Shepherd, who is rewriting the Wildcat record books with 64 receptions for 1,140 yards and 14 touchdowns. “When I heard he was moving here we got together and worked out a lot before the start of the season, and it's really paid off.”
Another explosive member of the Wildcats offense is defensive back-turned-wide receiver Kaleb Prewett, who has 24 catches for 624 yards – a 24-yard average per catch – and 10 TDs.
“I had some idea that I might be a part of the offense this season, but I never thought I'd be this much a part of it,” said Prewett, whose emergence keeps teams from doubling up their coverage on Shepherd. "Ian stepped in and became a part of the team, like he'd been here forever. He just took control of the offense.”
Page 2 of 2 - With a new gunslinger running the show and an offensive line that became one of the strengths of the team, reigning Simone Award winner Dalvin Warmack enjoyed another stellar year (238 carries for 2,152 yards and 30 touchdowns).
“Teams can't put eight men in the box to stop me, or Ian will pick their defense apart with Shep and Kaleb,” Warmack said, “so thank you, Ian Brown, for moving to Blue Springs.”
Although he's the man with the key to Wildcat offense, Brown knows that this team belongs to the seniors like Warmack, Prewett, Shepherd, Gunnar Strickland, Elijah Lee and others.
“Ian is a quiet leader who would never rock the boat,” Donohoe said. “He's like the Davis twins (Carlos and Khalil) and Cobi (Bissell). They're junior leaders, but they know this year's team belongs to our seniors. And we have such great senior leaders.
“And next year, our juniors are going to become great senior leaders. But we're all focused on this year now.”
Brown is coming off one of this finest games, a five-touchdown effort in a 42-14 state semifinal win at Eureka last Friday.
“All the credit goes to my line and the guys who catch the passes, and, of course, to our coaches," Brown said. "We're so prepared, it's just amazing to go into games and know as much about our opponents as we do – and it's because our coaches work their tail ends off making sure we're ready.
“That's why it's so easy to go out and work hard in practice, because we could never outwork our coaching staff.”
Brown enters Friday's title game with 30 touchdowns and just four interceptions, while completing 130 of 208 attempts for 2,308 yards.
“We've had some very good quarterbacks while I've been here, but no one has put up 30/4 type numbers,” Donohoe said. “It's been so much fun working with Ian, and getting to know him. He's just a great young man to be around.”