THE PENNANT PLAYER PROFILE
By RICK PETERSON
After playing running back for most of his career, including his first season at Washburn University, former Washburn Rural standout Hunter Browning made the switch to wide receiver in 2019.
It's a move that has paid off for both Browning, a 5-foot-11, 195-pound redshirt junior, and the 2-0 Ichabods, with Browning ranking second on the team with six receptions for 83 yards entering Saturday's 1 p.m. game at 2-0 Nebraska-Kearney while also carrying the ball once for 22 yards.
Browning rushed for 360 yards and two touchdowns on 85 attempts as a redshirt freshman in 2018, including a 116-yard performance against Northeastern State, but after suffering an injury to his shoulder as well as nerve damage in a subsequent injury, Browning and Washburn coach Craig Schurig made the decision for Browning to move outside for the '19 season.
"After my injury that year I had a meeting with coach and he said, 'You know we could really use you out at wide receiver because with our running backs, a lot of them are just really explosive and if we could have you and all of them on the field at the same time, that would be the most ideal thing for us,' '' Browning recalled.
"He told me I could think about it and get back to him, but I thought it was the right move at the time, and so far it's worked out. I just worked hard at it, on my route-running and watching film and all of that, and it's been really good.''
Browning caught eight passes for 78 yards and a TD in '19 and continues to feel more and more at home as a wideout after having basically two more years to learn the position.
Browning has already established a career-high yardage total in just two games this fall and needs just three catches to establish a career-high for single-season receptions.
"His speed was such that he played early as a tailback, but his body wasn't built to be a tailback in this conference,'' Schurig said. "By moving him we got a little bit more depth at that position and we liked his speed. We knew it was going to be a transition. It's hard to learn receiver, there's a lot going on, but with his body type and speed and quickness we felt like he could do some really good things at receiver and not take the pounding like he did at tailback.
"He's done a great job, he really has. He's so conscientous, works very hard and has really come on. He was making plays in practice and he's making them in games. He had a big touchdown pass against Lincoln and a huge catch in the first drive (against Central Missouri). He gets open.''
Looking back on it, Browning is glad he made the move.
"It was just a decision that was best for the team and for me, too,'' Browning said. "It's really fun being out there at receiver.''