Naps make tracks to college gridirons.

Position:SPORTS
 
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Byline: Jennifer Toland

COLUMN: COLLEGE FOOTBALL

Corey Brown and his fellow former Holy Name High stars are no longer teammates, but in so many ways, it feels like they still are.

Brown is a junior starting cornerback at Western New England College, Brandon Potvin plays at UMass, Santino Simone at Anna Maria, Steve O'Brien at Sacred Heart and Nick Granger at Westfield State, but "we're all still best friends and we're all playing college football," Brown said. "It's pretty amazing when I go back home I have all my best friends playing college football with me. We're working hard together. We know exactly what each other is doing and what we have to do."

In the offseason, the group, which led the Naps to a Division 1A Super Bowl title in 2008, works out at World Gym in Worcester, runs at Holy Name's Flanagan Field and often pops in to see Naps coach Mike Pucko.

"We're all really close and it's great to see everyone succeeding," Brown said.

Tomorrow, Brown will play in the biggest game in Western New England history when the Golden Bears host Framingham State in the New England Football Conference championship. The winner earns an automatic bid to the NCAA Division 3 playoffs.

The Golden Bears, with a 9-1 record, already are the most successful team in the school's history. They've won eight straight, also a team mark.

The key to Western New England's success has been pretty simple.

"Hard work," Brown said.

After a solid freshman season in which Brown started every game and tied for the team lead in interceptions, he struggled through a bit of a sophomore slump last year, but still helped WNEC to an ECAC bowl appearance.

Brown, of Worcester, rededicated himself this season and has aided an outstanding defensive effort. The Golden Bears are allowing just 16.7 points per game, lead the nation in interceptions and rank ninth in turnover margin. Brown has contributed 34 tackles, 4 interceptions, 7 pass breakups and a fumble recovery.

"I focused more on what I had to do better," Brown said. "Coach (Keith Emery) told me what I had to work on. I took it to heart. I put in more effort."

Brown, an honors student at Holy Name, has continued to excel academically. A criminal justice major, Brown has made the Dean's List every semester at WNEC. As a freshman, he was the recipient of the college's Richard DiRuzza Emerging Leader Award. Brown said his brother, Ryan, a WPI graduate, inspired him to achieve in the classroom.

Western New England, the Boyd...

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