Three former Tigard gridiron stars hope to earn some playing time at PSU
PORTLAND - The last time Jordan Brown, Mark Lucas and Joey Nobriga were on the football field together, they were celebrating a state championship.
Now, the three former Tigard High School standouts are itching to get back on the field.
They're ready to see some hard-hitting action, in no matter what capacity, for the Portland State University football team.
'I just want to get on the field,' Brown said last week at the Portland State media day. 'This year, that's the No. 1 goal, even if it's on special teams.'
Brown and Lucas, both 2005 Tigard High School graduates, are each redshirt freshmen for the Vikings. Nobriga, a 2004 Tigard grad, is a third-year sophomore.
Brown, Lucas and Nobriga were all key players for the Tiger team that won the 2003 Class 4A state championship, downing North Medford 18-6.
Nobriga, then a Tigard senior, rushed for 136 yards and scored on a 35-yard run in that contest. Lucas, a junior linebacker, had six total tackles, an interception and a safety. Brown, a junior cornerback, was in on four tackles and he broke up a pass.
Brown and Lucas went on to have outstanding senior seasons at Tigard in 2004. But, last year, as true freshmen at PSU, they had to adjust to not seeing any game action, just like Nobriga did the year before.
'It was rough,' Lucas said of not seeing any game action during his redshirt season. 'It was really different going from being a starter to having no chance to play. Everyday at practice, your main thing was to help everyone else. Your job was to help the others.'
'It wasn't to bad,' Brown, whose older brother Ryan was a receiver at PSU, said of his first year. 'You're basically a dummy for the drills. But you still try to pick up things.
'In the first week last year, I was so surprised. Everything was so much faster. I wasn't used to it. Receivers were way harder to cover.'
Lucas also saw the difference between high school and college football last year.
'Everyone was bigger, stronger and faster,' he said. 'Learning the system was a big thing. Everything was so much more complicated than high school.'
Nobriga, who wasn't available at last week's media day, helped his former Tiger teammates out during their first year at PSU.
'He gave us some heads ups,' Brown said.
Another familiar face helped Brown and Lucas out during their initial fall at PSU. That face belonged to former Tigard High School football coach Frank Geske, who was in his first year as the running backs coach at Portland State last year.
'It was nice to see Coach Geske,' Lucas said.
'He made the transition easier,' Brown said. 'He'd usually joke around with us.'
Now, in their second year at PSU, Brown and Lucas say they're more prepared.
'We know what to expect this year,' Lucas said. 'So far, it's so much easier. The first day of practice was good. It was nice to get back out there.'
In their second year at Portland State, Lucas and Brown are facing the same intent - to get bigger.
That especially holds true for Lucas, who is moving from linebacker to defensive end this year.
Lucas, at 6-foot-3, 225 pounds, began fall practices fourth on the depth chart at defensive left end. The three players listed above him are senior Jimmy Ko (6-1, 260), sophomore Johnathan Benjamin-Nichols (6-3, 250) and junior Doniel Galloway (6-2, 255).
'Right now, I'm looking to gain more weight and to learn the position,' Lucas said. 'It's going well. I didn't find the change hard. I like defensive end.'
Brown (6-0, 180) also is going through a position change this year. He's moving from cornerback to safety. He's listed third on the PSU preseason depth chart at right safety behind junior Michael Dorsey (6-2, 205) and junior Damion Porter (6-0, 195).
'I need to put some weight on, too,' said Brown, who also plans on competing for the PSU track and field team this school year. 'There's a lot of talent at my position. But that just pushes the younger guys to get better. The big thing for me right now is special teams. I'm trying to work my way up on special teams right now.'
Special teams. That's where both Brown and Lucas are looking to make their marks this season.
'We both want special teams time this year,' Lucas said. 'And we want to keep on learning.'
Special teams might be in the cards for Nobriga (5-10, 210) as well this year.
The sophomore began preseason No. 4 on the depth chart at the Vikings' strong safety/outside linebacker position behind junior Jordan Senn (5-11, 200), junior KJ McCrae (6-1, 225) and sophomore Aaron Dickson (6-1, 205).
In the future, the former Tigers will be looking to make plenty of noise at Portland State.
'I want to get on the field, at least by next year,' Brown said. 'I'm glad to be here. I don't what I'd be doing if I wasn't playing football here.'
'I love it here,' Lucas added. 'It's so nice to get to play football and get your school paid for.'
The three former Tigard stars haven't had the chance to make their mark on the field for Portland State yet, but they've already earned a nickname from their Viking teammates.
'Some of the guys on the team call us the Tigard Thugs,' Brown said. 'I think they remember us from the state championship team.'
Who knows? If things work out their way, the Tigard Thugs just may be celebrating together on the football field again someday.