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Penn State Safety Ji’Ayir Brown Embraces Leadership Role

Ji'Ayir Brown
MADISON, WI - SEPTEMBER 04: Penn State safety Ji'Ayir Brown (16) can't quite hang on to the ball for an interception in front of Wisconsin wide receiver Kendric Pryor (3) during a college football game between the University of Wisconsin Badgers and the Penn State University Nittany Lions on September 4, 2021 at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, WI. (Photo by Lawrence Iles/Icon Sportswire)

Ji’Ayir Brown had an excellent season as a safety for Penn State in 2021.

The safety from Trenton, New Jersey, led the nation in interceptions with six, which was the most for a Penn State player since 2006.

Despite that, Brown wasn’t named to either of the Big Ten’s top two all-conference teams and wasn’t even the most celebrated safety on his team. That proverbial distinction belonged to All-American Jaquan Brisker, who will likely go in this week’s NFL draft.

Although Brown would undoubtedly love to be an All-American himself, that wasn’t the main reason why he decided to come back to Penn State for 2022.

“The reason why I came back is I wanted to be more of a leader,” Brown said after Saturday’s Blue-White game. “I wanted to be that second guy, that player-coach that coach is looking for. The challenge for me this spring was ‘how well can I lead?’ So I took that challenge, and I feel like I did a great job.”

Penn State has some talented younger safeties, such as Jaylen Reed and Zakee Wheatley, and Brown loves being able to share his knowledge of the position to help them.

“I’m just blessed to be in this position that I’m able to give them advice and give them insight on what I see out there,” Brown said. “And not just giving them insight. The best part about it is the guys get the advice and they apply it every day in practice.”

Spring ball is usually a time for younger Penn State players to impress James Franklin and the coaching staff.

While players like Wheatley have done that, Brown was the first player Franklin mentioned when asked which players stuck out to him throughout the spring

“(Brown) obviously led the nation in interceptions this year, but I thought he built on it this spring and these winter workouts,” Franklin said Saturday.

Brown has team-oriented objectives for 2022, such as taking younger safeties under his wing and helping coordinator Manny Diaz’s first defense at Penn State be great.

Individually, he wants to retain his interception title.

“I’m coming back to lead the nation again,” he said. “That’s my goal.”

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