After playing a pivotal role in the first CIAA title for the Fayetteville State Broncos since 2009, defensive back Brandon Barnes-Brown has been named one of the Shrine Bowl HBCU Players of the Week. Can the ball-hawking secondary standout follow former Broncos teammate Joshua Williams to the next level in the 2023 NFL Draft?
Week 11 HBCU Defensive Players of the Week: Fayetteville State DB Brandon Barnes-Brown
Following a game where he logged a crucial second-quarter interception, Barnes-Brown has been named the Shrine Bowl HBCU Defensive Player of the Week. The Broncos defensive back has been an impactful playmaker his whole college football career, so it was no surprise to see him shine in the brightest moment and secure a CIAA ring that evaded Williams, his former teammate and Kansas City Chiefs rookie.
Fayetteville State has been to the last four CIAA title games but has failed to get across the finish line since 2009. After giving up three straight touchdown drives early in the game against Chowan, it looked like history might repeat itself. Down 21-14 late in the second quarter, the Hawks drove down the field and positioned themselves for a fourth touchdown of the first half at the Broncos’ 24-yard line.
Chowan quarterback Rashad McKee tried to lead his receiver on the outside and succumbed to Barnes-Brown’s playmaking ability. Transitioning out of his backpedal seamlessly and breaking on the ball with dangerous intention, the Fayetteville State defensive back cajoled the ball into his arms for his third interception of the year. It was the second pick against the Hawks this season, after registering an interception in a 13-10 win during the CIAA regular season.
Barnes-Brown added two tackles to a performance that saw him named one of the Shrine Bowl HBCU Players of the Week for college football Week 11.
It was the icing on the cake of a college football career that has seen the Fayetteville State cornerback establish himself as one of the best players at his level. He burst onto the scene in 2017, earning CIAA All-Rookie Team honors. Since then, Brandon-Barnes has earned multiple conference first-team accolades, was named to the Black College Hall of Fame Player of the Year Watch List, and now adds Shrine Bowl HBCU Defensive Player of the Week recognition to his résumé.
It’s a portfolio that combines statistical sensationalism and the game tape that goes beyond the box score to reveal a genuine 2023 NFL Draft prospect.
“Barnes-Brown has been reliable since his freshman year, earning all-conference rookie honors,” Draft HBCU Football Evaluator Maliik Obee told Pro Football Network. “He closed out his college career with a bang against Chowan in the CIAA Championship with an interception. That interception was a metaphor for his time at FSU as a ball hawk. 13 career interceptions, 30 pass deflections, and a blocked field goal — just a football player.”
The Shrine Bowl has partnered with Draft HBCU to identify and elevate NFL draft prospects from Historically Black Colleges and Universities with a range of initiatives, including the HBCU Players of the Week. Obee identifies the skill set that should see the Fayetteville State defensive back garner attention next April, but he first offers a high-level comparison.
“It reminds me of 757 legend Dre Bly, the way he plays the ball in the air.” The former North Carolina standout — twice an All-American for the Tar Heels — was a second-round pick of the St. Louis Rams in the 1999 NFL Draft. He featured on two Pro Bowl teams while earning a Super Bowl ring in his rookie season. If the comparison seems lofty for Barnes-Brown, Obee explains some of the skill-set similarities.
“Good mix of athleticism, instincts, and physicality. He wants the ball when it’s in the air and won’t be denied. He’s a scrappy corner that can make tackles in the open field and understands different coverage concepts. Speed, toughness, and ball skills. A leader that wanted to get over the CIAA hump and led the Broncos over a formidable opponent.”
Barnes-Brown wanted to get Fayetteville State over the CIAA hump, and he succeeded. Ending his college career in style, the eyes that have been locked on college quarterbacks are now firmly on the 2023 NFL Draft and the possibility of becoming just the fourth Bronco in program history to hear their name called in the annual selection event.
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