MOUNT PLEASANT — First things first, those first names.
Rudder Brown, the versatile Wando High School wide receiver who signed a Citadel football scholarship offer Wednesday, is named after a College of Charleston professor.
And boat parts.
“Rudder we came up with out of respect for professor Howard Rudd, who helped push me through business school when I attended there at an older age,” Howard Brown, Rudder's beaming father, said during a signing day ceremony at Wando High School. “Living on Sullivan's Island on the beach, we wanted a good, solid nautical name.”
Unlike “SpongeBob SquarePants,” this is not nautical nonsense. Though officially George Howard Brown Jr., the 6-4, 210-pound kid everyone knows as Rudder caught 51 passes and scored 12 touchdowns in 2012.
Kep Brown is Rudder's younger (though not particularly little) brother. The 6-4, 205-pound sophomore is a power-hitting outfielder/pitcher with speed. He committed to South Carolina and head coach Chad Holbrook in December.
“Kep is Michael Kepchar Brown, but Kep for short,” Howard Brown said. “Kepchar is his mother's grandmother's maiden name. Uncle Kep was a World War II Navy guy who had multiple awards for different things.”
A leap to 'awesome'
It was Rudder's day on the Brown family honor tree, the payoff for multi-sport sweat over years of overlapping seasons. Brown has played AAU basketball and competed nationally in track and field events ranging from sprints and hurdles to the shotput.
Brown's upside is seen in his football statistics. As a senior, he personified the leap that was Wando's best regular season. Brown had only eight career receptions entering 2012.
Seven Wando seniors signed scholarships on Wednesday and four more are set to play college football as walk-ons. Head coach Jimmy Noonan said he expects three or four other players to sign later.
“This is awesome, just to be able to do signing day like you always see it on TV,” Rudder Brown said. “A few years ago I was barely playing any varsity football and now I'm signing to a Division I school and it's just awesome to be in this situation right now.”
Howard Brown is a general contractor. Deb Brown, the busy sports mom with a huge grocery bill, is a research analyst at Barling Bay and president of the Wando booster club.
They took part in a crowded signing day scene at Wando that included 15 athletes in four sports.
“I've always told Rudder that hard work will get you everywhere,” Howard Brown said. “Rudder is an incredibly disciplined hard worker. He's wanted to play college football since he was 8 or 9. He's achieved that through hard work, discipline and good grades.”
Kep Brown stood on a chair and took pictures as Noonan introduced the football signees.
“Honestly, if we went back a couple years I would never have thought all this would be happening for the both of us,” Kep said. “But looking at Rudder now and all the hard work he's put in, it makes me proud as a brother but it also makes me proud as a fellow athlete. This shows that hard work pays off. I'm just very proud of him.”
Kep Brown impressed Holbrook last August while playing for a 15U Diamond Devils team in the Perfect Games tournament at Atlanta's East Cobb complex. It was one of the first events Holbrook scouted after taking over for Ray Tanner as South Carolina's head coach.
“I'm still young,” Kep Brown said. “I have three more baseball seasons, more than two more years left of high school. I'm not really thinking about (signing day) for myself. I'm just thinking about what I need to do as an athlete.”
Big brother Rudder couldn't have scripted it better.
Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff.