Following each season, the BSD staff votes on the 10 best players. A #1 vote is worth 10 points, a #2 vote is nine points, and so on. Today we continue our Top 10 series with the second vote-getter tied at #2: safety Ji’Ayir Brown.
Penn State has seemingly always had at least a serviceable safety roaming the deep secondary, but after Marcus Allen left, there were a couple years where things looked a bit shaky. Then came Jaquan Brisker, a Lackawanna CC product who breathed new life into the safety position, helping the Penn State secondary turn a corner into a ferocious back half that made opposing offenses think twice about chucking it deep. The latest safety to draw national attention at the safety position? None other than Ji’Ayir Brown.
Another Lackawanna CC player, Ji’Ayir “Tiig” Brown took a bit of a circuitous route, stopping for a couple years at the JuCo that has become a pipeline for Penn State. He joined during the COVID-shortened 2020 season, before taking control of one of the starting safety spots opposite Brisker in 2021. With most teams avoiding Brisker, Tiig feasted to the tune of six interceptions, five passes defended, one forced fumble and two fumbles recovered.
With Jaquan off to the NFL in 2022, Tiig settled the secondary and made sure that passing continued to be difficult for opposing teams. As the top dog deep, teams stopped throwing the ball his direction, resulting in just five interceptions and three passes defended. So, Ji’Ayir brought himself to the ball instead, forcing seven tackles for loss and four and a half sacks.
Perhaps his best showing was his last in the Rose Bowl against Utah. Tiig led the team with eight tackles, 1.5 sacks, and 1.5 tackles for loss, also adding in an interception in the third quarter with Penn State holding a 21-14 lead, but with Utah driving. Later, the Lions held a 28-14 lead with the Utes attempting a comeback, and Brown teamed up with Chop Robinson for a sack on third down, and the ensuing drive saw the Lions extend their lead to 35-14. The rest, as they say, is history.
Over his career, Tiig was selected as third-team All-Big Ten twice, after both 2021 and 2022. He picked up weekly honors along the way, including Bronko Nagurski National Defensive Player of the Week, Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week, and Jim Thorpe Award Player of the Week.
Now, Ji’Ayir is off to prep for the NFL Draft, where various pundits expect he’ll be a mid-round draft selection, but with high upside that could eventually see him being a plus-starter in the League. We wish Mr. Brown all the best of luck at the next level!