Kelby Brown knew something was wrong as soon as he hit the ground.
An all-ACC redshirt senior linebacker, he grabbed his left knee, pounded his fist into the ground and yelled, “No!” It was the second play of Duke’s scrimmage, and he had made it into the backfield, just a normal rush on the quarterback.
That’s where he went down. Brown, out of Charlotte Christian, was helped off the field, putting little weight on his knee. On the sideline, after it was wrapped with ice, he hobbled to a cart and left the field.
Coach David Cutcliffe said Brown was scheduled to have an MRI Monday night.
Brown is no stranger to serious knee injuries. He has torn his right ACL twice in his Duke career – missing all of 2012 because of the second one. He also tore his right MCL at the end of his freshman year, and has missed time with a concussion as well.
“When you have a great person, a great player and a guy that’s a stalwart in the program that’s had two knee surgeries, it’s upsetting to say the least,” Cutcliffe said. “Kelby is a very strong spiritual person, too, so he’ll be fine.”
Finally healthy last year, Brown was a first-team all-ACC selection with 114 total tackles (third in the ACC, behind teammates David Helton and Jeremy Cash), 8.77 tackles per game (second) 11 tackles for loss, eight quarterback hurries, and two pass break-ups. He was a preseason first-team all-ACC selection this year, too.
Brown’s parents, Kelby and Connie, were in attendance. His brother, Kyler, a redshirt junior defensive end, went out to him while he was lying on the ground. So did quarterback Anthony Boone.
“It’s just one of those things where we hope for the best,” Boone said.
Junior Deion Williams took Brown’s place with the starting defense for the rest of the scrimmage, but Cutcliffe said several players would get a look to fill that spot. Replacing Brown, though, will prove challenging.
Not only is he the vocal leader on defense, he also has a playmaking ability and vision no other linebacker on the roster can match.
As the Blue Devils walked off the field, they spoke among themselves about Brown and his injury.
“He’s the nicest guy in the world,” one said, heads bobbing in agreement. “Just the nicest guy in the world.”