Away from the football field, Kharon Brown is as personable a Lawrence High student as anyone.
Put a helmet on him? Look out.
A rising senior for the Lions, the talkative and fun-loving Brown can channel his mean-spirited side when he is on the gridiron. It’s not as much that he enjoys it as that playing the role of the nasty lineman is what is required of him as one of Lawrence’s leaders.
Thursday at LHS football camp, while teaching through action, the All-Sunflower League defensive lineman put an incoming freshman on his backside. The lesson: When you’re on the line, it’s serious.
“I felt a little bad about that,” Brown admitted. “The thing you want to do is make sure you’re hard on them, but they know you don’t hate them. You want them to learn and get better.”
Knowledge and improvement were some of the many goals for the entire Lawrence team at camp. LHS is eager to improve in the offseason, get back to the playoffs and make sure 2012 doesn’t end in the same fashion as 2011, with a first-round exit.
The Lions, like any other team, have lost their share of players to graduation. But coach Dirk Wedd loves the approach his rising senior class — led by Kharon Brown, Brad Strauss, Erick Mayo, Tyrone Jenkins, Drake Hofer, Jordan Brown and Will Thompson, all of whom received all-league recognition last season.
“Not one time since we got beat by Olathe South (37-14 in the playoffs),” the coach said, “have they sat around and patted themselves on the back and thought that they did anything special.”
Hofer, an inside receiver, said the plan for this fall involves more than a brief postseason appearance, and it is up to the entire senior class to get that done.
“I think all of us need to step up as leaders,” Hofer said, “because we’ve been there and done that, and we know what it takes to make the playoffs.”
In order for every player on the roster to be invested, Kharon Brown said the LHS leaders must make sure their young teammates know how difficult it is to win in November, how hard everyone will have to work and that the mission begins now.
“We’re going for a state championship,” the senior lineman said. “No matter what.”
Strauss, a 2011 first-team all-league quarterback and defensive back, said the offseason gives Lawrence’s upperclassmen numerous chances to set the tone for what lies ahead.
“We have a great senior class,” Strauss said, “and hopefully that’ll trickle down to the underclassmen.”
No one spends more time on the field than Mayo, a special teams returner, receiver and defensive back. At camp, he liked what he saw on both sides of the ball.
“Defensively, we’re gonna be solid, because we’ve got so many returning starters and people coming back,” Mayo said. “On offense, we’re gonna be really fast, quick, run crisp routes and stuff like that.”
Already, players have emerged as key parts of the LHS supporting cast. A sophomore last season, Drew Green has stepped up at linebacker, Wedd said, as has Jeff Moses, a transfer from Eudora.
Thompson, a receiver and defensive back, was identified by Mayo as having the “biggest offseason” of any player on the team.
“He’s gotten so much bigger, so much faster,” Mayo said of Thompson. “He’s gonna be a really good player for us this year.”
Wedd expects all the seniors to lead in their own fashion and contribute as LHS works toward the upcoming fall season.
“The bottom line is they all know what’s expected of them,” Wedd said, “and they all know what it takes to win now.”
LHS will participate Sunday and Monday at Emporia State University’s contact camp with a number of other high school teams.