There’s a spindly guy positioned in the back row. He’s dressed in street clothes and standing taller than anyone beside him.
“Who the heck is that back there,” First Baptist coach Johnny Waters remembers thinking the first time he examined the photo that now hangs over the desk in his office.
“I had no idea who he was at the time.”
Neither did most college recruiters.
Sincere Brown’s name wasn’t on many prospect lists. He wasn’t ranked by any scouting services. Just about the only place to find mention of the 6-foot-4 sophomore was buried on a Stratford roster that listed 19 other receivers.
He’s now one of the fastest rising names in the state. Since transferring to First Baptist last August, Brown has enjoyed the best season of his career. He’s suited up in a state championship game in a college stadium. He received his first college scholarship offer in April and then five more over the next two months before verbally committing to Appalachian State last week.
“It’s a great feeling and makes me realize how much I’ve improved over the past year,” Brown said. “I’ve been waiting on this chance my whole life.”
East Carolina showed some interest in Brown’s potential his sophomore year at Stratford. He logged 15 catches by the second week of September. But his own personal challenges relegated him to just four games with the Knights that fall.
Brown texted Michel Dukes during the offseason. He was seeking a fresh start. Dukes, now a freshman running back at Clemson, was a rising senior at First Baptist and one of the top ranked players in the state at the time. He and Brown had been friends since they were 4 years old.
Brown broke the ice by jokingly asking what the girls were like at First Baptist. Then he asked how he might fit into the offense of the two-time defending state champion Hurricanes, and what opportunities for tutoring there were at the school.
“Mikey had a lot to do with me coming to First Baptist,” Brown said of his move from Stratford, a public school with nearly 2,000 students, to the private Christian school with a few hundred. “First Baptist helped me focus better in school and helped me make better decisions out of school too.”
Brown enrolled at First Baptist the first week of August. The Hurricanes had already begun fall practice but Brown’s playmaking ability pushed him into the starting lineup. He made his public debut with his new team at the Sertoma Classic preseason jamboree a couple weeks later.
First Baptist won the coin toss and elected to begin on offense. Waters called out to his new receiver from the sideline before the opening snap.
“All right, Sincere. Get ready to block,” he yelled for all to hear. “Mikey is coming this way. Set a good block for him.”
Brown instead went streaking down the sideline to pull in a 56-yard lob. It was a bit of gamesmanship by Waters, who was anxious to unveil his new weapon. It was the longest catch Brown had ever made in high school, about three times longer than his previous best.
“He’s a player to watch,” Waters said after the scrimmage. “There are a lot of things he can do. He’s pretty dynamic, definitely a go-to guy.”
Brown, now 6-foot-5, flashed signs of brilliance throughout the season, finishing with just 16 catches but 501 yards and six touchdowns in the Hurricanes’ ground-based attack.
Not every team in the state lists its statistics on MaxPreps but the website does include numbers for 500 receivers. Brown’s average of 31.3 yards per catch ranks first in the state among those with at least nine catches.
He caught an 83-yard touchdown against rival Porter-Gaud in the regular-season finale. He had a 67-yard score the following game against Ben Lippen in the state quarterfinals and pulled in 28-yard touchdown a week later against Porter-Gaud in the state semifinals.
Brown further piqued recruiters’ interest with his size and speed in the spring. He placed third in the 100-meter dash at the SCISA track and field state championships in May. He ran a 4.41 40-yard dash at the Duke prospect camp a month later, the start of a recruiting tour that Waters guided throughout North and South Carolina in his company’s dry cleaning van.
“He’s got the size and speed. That jumps out immediately,” Waters said. “College coaches like that he’s an aggressive pass receiver too. He can go up and get it. Very coachable; he listens to everything you teach him. He’s constantly improving. He’s a far better player than he was at this point last summer. And the thing is, he’s still raw, really. He’s still going to get a lot better.”
Brown says he chose App State over the likes of Navy, Coastal Carolina, Liberty and The Citadel because the Mountaineers made him a priority. He thought about waiting until December to commit but chose to do it in the summer to avoid any distractions during his senior season.
“I really thank (Waters) for putting me in front of college coaches’ eyes,” Brown said. “(App State) loved on me the most and I loved the environment. Now I can really focus and I have something to push for.”
App State offered Brown on June 2. He visited Boone on June 19 and committed eight days after. He appeared on national recruiting rankings for the first time days after announcing his commitment.
The accelerated recruiting process is a microcosm of the past year for Brown. Hardly anyone knew Sincere Brown’s name before the start of his junior season. Now he’s a Group of Five commit, listed as one of the best receivers in the state. Imagine where he might be this time next year.