Danny Brown is a young man who knows what he wants and who knows how to get it.
The 2012 Lake Norman High alumnus is getting ready to graduate from the U.S. Air Force Academy where he’s also completing a four-year career on the men’s lacrosse team.
Described by the people who know him best as a quietly determined and competitive person, Brown is close to following through on a dream he’s had since he picked up his first lacrosse stick nine years ago.
Brown’s parents are faithful collectors of their children’s keepsakes and among the memorabilia Steve and Jill Brown have in a storage bin inside their Mooresville home is a copy of an English class assignment Danny wrote that foretold his post high school intentions.
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“I am a serious athlete and my goal would be to get a lacrosse scholarship to the (Air Force) academy,” Danny wrote almost a decade ago. Early in the paper, he included a note about his interest in aeronautics.
Brown is scheduled to graduate with a degree in systems management June 2. After 10 months of administrative duties, Brown will begin pilot training in April 2017.
Brown was one of the top players on Lake Norman High’s 2012 boys’ lacrosse state championship team. For him, and many of his teammates, it was an unlikely Hollywood ending to a six-year ride playing a sport that was new to them as middle-schoolers.
Twelve years ago, the Brown family moved to Mooresville from Pinckney, Mich. As a youth, Danny loved playing football, basketball and soccer. But no one in the Brown family had ever heard of lacrosse.
According to Steve Brown, a group of Lake Norman area fathers, who had backgrounds in lacrosse, formed a team when Danny was in seventh grade. Playing under the name Lake Norman United, the team played in tournaments throughout the southeast. The nucleus of players stuck together through their high school years.
The coach of that team was James Brugger who was also an assistant coach at Lake Norman High from 2010-12 and has been the head coach ever since. He says Brown’s lacrosse talent was easily recognizable.
“Arguably, and I’m biased, but he will definitely go down as one of the best in the state (history),” said Brugger. “When he played, he worked. There was no doubt about it. There are not many kids that have been better than him.”
By the time Brown reached high school, he knew lacrosse was his main sport. His dad cleared out space in their basement and built him a lacrosse net for the backyard so Danny could practice more.
Playing attack, Brown scored 186 goals as a four-year starter in high school, including 70 in his senior year. Away from Lake Norman United, Brown also played for Top Tier Lacrosse, another Lake Norman area traveling team coach by Steve Schattner.
“His lacrosse IQ is very high,” said Schattner. “He sees the field well. He has good stick skills. He’s quick. He can go. He doesn’t come off the field.”
During Brown’s college recruiting process, Brugger and Schattner helped Brown make contacts with coaches. Schattner was a lacrosse teammate at UNC-Chapel Hill of Air Force Academy coach Eric Seremet.
Other players from that Lake Norman High state championship team earned lacrosse scholarships to play in college: J.T. Del Tufo (Mercer), Will Scott (Mars Hill), Anthony D’Auria (Alerson-Broaddus), and Cole Maxon (Guilford College).
Brown admits that his decision to attend Air Force was at least partly influenced by his respect for his grandfather, Lt. Col. John Brown, who was a former Air Force Academy recruiter.
Brown’s four years with the Falcons have been troubled by injuries. Last year, he broke his left foot early in the season and was limited to five games. Currently, Brown is nursing an early-season broken thumb, but expects to return mid-season.
Brown’s greatest accomplishments at Air Force include playing for a team that reached the NCAA tournament in 2014 and being voted as a team captain by his teammates this year. A highlight this season will be playing some games in the southeastern U.S., including at Duke on March 22, and returning to his roots.
“(I’m excited about) going back and seeing my hometown and how the game has grown,” said Brown. “Coach Brugger has run a great program. Knowing we started the charge on that and paved the way for everyone else, it’s definitely a growing sport. Right now it’s the fastest growing sport in America. It’s exciting to see how it has grown, especially in North Carolina.”
Joe Habina is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Danny Brown’s stats as a varsity high school player
2009 26 G 16 A
2010 45 30
2011 45 22
2012 70 40
Total 186 108