A Look Back At Ji’Ayir Brown’s Consistent Penn State Career

After three seasons with the Nittany Lions, fifth-year senior Ji’Ayir Brown is off to the NFL. With that, there’s plenty worth looking back on now that Brown’s collegiate career is over.

Brown, better known to his teammates as “Tig,” moved to Happy Valley in 2020 following his sophomore season and became a member of the Lackawanna College-Penn State pipeline. Despite being behind Lamont Wade and fellow Lackawanna transfer Jaquan Brisker on the depth chart, Brown still appeared in all nine games in the 2020 season, recording six total tackles.

Brown’s best game of the season came during what would have been his first White Out game on Halloween night against Ohio State. Brown had two stops in the game, one of which was his first tackle for loss as a Nittany Lion.

Following Wade’s graduation after the season, Brown adopted a significant role alongside Brisker in the secondary. Brown immediately made an impact and proved he belonged.

In his first career start at Wisconsin, he had five tackles, a pass breakup, and hauled in his first career interception, which came as time expired to secure a season-opening victory in Madison.

Brown was reliable all season, starting every game. The playmaker settled in as the year went on and continued to improve every week. He became a vital part of a Penn State team that started 5-0 and ranked as high as No. 4 in the country before losing three straight and six of its last eight games.

One of Brown’s most notable games in his career came against Maryland in 2021 when he recorded an 87-yard pick-six in the fourth quarter to help seal a Nittany Lion victory. It was the fifth-longest interception return in school history.

This performance resulted in Brown being named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week, earning an honorable mention for the Jim Thorpe Award, and named the Coaching Staff’s Defensive Player of the Week for the third time this season — with the previous two coming against Villanova and Indiana.

Penn State found itself in the Outback Bowl following the 2021 season. In a game where starting safety Brisker opted out to prepare for the NFL Draft, Brown took on the lead role in the back of the secondary.

He tied a Penn State bowl record with two interceptions and capped off an outstanding senior season by being named a third-team All-Big Ten honoree by the coaches and honorable mention by the media.

He ended the 2021 season with 73 tackles, which was third-best on the team. He had six interceptions, tied for the nation’s lead and 10th-most in a season at Penn State. Tig also recovered two fumbles, which tied for third in the Big Ten.

Although he could’ve entered the 2022 NFL Draft, Brown returned to Penn State for one more season.

Coming into the 2022 season, the expectations for Brown were high as ever. The Trenton, New Jersey, product was voted a team captain and tabbed as a preseason first-team All-Big Ten honoree by Pro Football Focus.

Starting all 13 games once again, Brown led the team with 74 tackles and four interceptions, while also posting 4.5 sacks and two forced fumbles.

Brown’s efforts were nationally recognized, as he was named third-team All-Big Ten by coaches and media while also being named a Pro Football Focus third-team All-Big Ten selection.

Brown was named the defensive MVP of the Rose Bowl in a game where he recorded a team-high eight tackles, 1.5 sacks, and 1.5 tackles for loss. He helped secure the victory with a third-quarter interception, his fourth of the season.

The accolades didn’t stop here for Brown. Earlier in the season, he earned the coaching staff’s Defensive Player of the Week twice for his efforts against Auburn and Northwestern.

In a week five rainy battle against Northwestern that featured sloppy play and many turnovers, Tig recorded an interception, six tackles, a tackle for loss, and a quarterback hurry.

Whether Brown dropped back in coverage or blitzed the quarterback, he was bound to make a play. His presence was felt all over the field and opposing teams had to know where Tig was located at all times.

One of Brown’s most highlight-worthy plays of the season came at Rutgers when he scooped-and-scored a 70-yard fumble. This was his second career defensive touchdown.

Due to his leadership and consistent performances throughout the season, Brown was named Penn State’s team MVP and was given the Iron Lion Award, which exemplifies strength and conditioning.

Brown will go down as one of the consistent greats and will be remembered for his takeaway ability. He finishes his career in Happy Valley with 15 career takeaways — nine interceptions, three fumble recoveries, and three forced fumbles. His success in college undoubtedly sets Brown up for what could be an impressive career at the next level.

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About the Author

Brady Miller

Brady is a senior public relations major who originates from the cornfields of Schuylkill County, PA. He spends most of his time watching the Philadelphia Phillies blow leads and the New England Patriots struggle to score points. When not watching sports, Brady is most likely "studying" or with his friends. Follow him on Twitter @_bMiLL_32 to see mostly retweets of whatever is going through Marlon Humphrey's head, or you can email him at [email protected].

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