Tim Brown worked all year to return to the Modesto Junior College football team bigger, stronger and fitter.
The Downey High graduate surprised himself with how his training has paid off.
Brown is MJC's top kickoff returner with six for 156 yards. He has four punt returns for 97 yards.
Brown and Turlock's Ramall Reed lead Modesto with three interceptions apiece heading into tonight's game with visiting Golden Gate Conference opponent Chabot. Kickoff is at 7.
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"I really didn't expect my season to be this good," Brown said. "It's catching up to me. I have to sustain myself, make plays, be in the right position at the right time."
Brown has done a good job of anticipating where the action is going to be.
The cornerback returned an interception 45 yards for a touchdown in a victory over Hartnell on Oct. 13.
He set up a 15-yard touchdown pass from Chad Draper to Marcus Allen with a 49-yard kickoff return when Modesto beat Gavilan on Sept. 8.
Last week, Brown picked up the ball after Eddie Abbasi blocked a Los Medanos kick and ran the ball back. A Modesto penalty during his 85-yard sprint negated what would have been two points for the Pirates.
But that play, and the interceptions, have given Brown the greatest pride this season.
"In my freshman year, I had one interception the whole season," Brown said. "I didn't even get three in high school. I didn't think I'd get three in college."
Brown put in the effort. He felt unprepared for the level of play during his 2005 freshman year at Modesto JC, standing 5-foot-10 and weighing 155 pounds. He took a year off, concentrating on his classes and working out.
Brown followed the UC Davis off-season training regimen with friend and Aggie tight end Brad Bispo. Adding 20 pounds of muscle made Brown feel stronger and more confident.
"Tim's done a really great job on punt returns," coach Sam Young said. "It's a lot harder to grab a deep ball. If someone kicks the ball 50 or 60 yards and we let it bounce around for another 10 yards, our field is that much longer."
Brown has been one of the Pirates' most versatile athletes, also playing safety. The defense and special teams units have made things easier on the offense the last two weeks, giving Modesto good field position and intercepting nine passes.
Brown is eager to keep that trend going.