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May '09 brings hard hits to football's defensive line

As a first-year starter at linebacker, Jonathan May '09 is not one of the football team's most heralded players. But this season, May has stood out from the crowd on the Bears' defense.

May comes into Saturday's home game against Dartmouth - the final home game of the season for the 3-5, 2-3 Ivy Bears - leading the team in both solo tackles and total tackles. He has impressed teammates, coaches and fans alike with his electrifying hits on opposing players.

While playing for Naples High School, a perennial Florida state powerhouse, May's aggressive style drew the attention of the Brown coaching staff.

"He was a great hitter," said Defensive Coordinator and Linebackers Coach Mike Kelleher. "On a perennial playoff team, he was always the most physical player, on every tape we watched."

When it came time for May to choose a college, Brown seemed like the best fit for him.

"A major factor was the academics," May said. "It came down to a choice between Patriot League and Ivy League schools, and when I took a visit to Brown it just seemed like a better work environment."

In his first two seasons at Brown, May saw relatively little playing time but had the opportunity to learn from older players such as All-American linebacker Zak DeOssie '07.

"Zak was a great role model, both on and off the field," May said. "Everyone on this team comes from different backgrounds ... and you learn a lot from each person."

Last season, May was used mostly as a free safety, but for a large part of the season had a limited role as he played behind All-Ivy safety Jose Yearwood '08.

"Last year I really just wanted to help the team out, and whatever way I could help the team would be great," May said. But could he have envisioned himself becoming the team's leading tackler? "Absolutely not," May said.

This year, the coaching staff moved May to the outside linebacker position, and he has flourished in his new role. Through the first eight games, he has recorded 68 tackles, including 47 solo tackles. Though he has shocked himself with his success, he hasn't surprised his coaches.

"We always believed that Jon would be a very good football player for us," Kelleher said. "And (outside linebacker) is a position that has the opportunity to make a lot of plays."

Brown's group of linebackers includes several players in new roles, including Miles Craigwell '09, a receiver-turned-linebacker, and Steve Ziogas '09, who, after spending most of his time on special teams, has started at inside linebacker in several games this season.

"We were a little inexperienced at the outside linebacker position, with both Miles and Jon, but they've continued to improve each week," Kelleher said. "Having Steve (Ziogas) back, and the outside linebackers back (next season), it makes you feel pretty good."

May's big hits have made him one of the most exciting playmakers on the team this year. In the fourth quarter of Brown's win over the University of Pennsylvania, a hard tackle by May knocked Penn fullback Nick Cisler out of the game. May said that while it is not his intent to hurt anyone, his physical style is a key part of his game.

"If I hit a guy real hard on one play, then maybe the next time he runs that same route, he'll be thinking of me instead of catching the ball," May said.

It comes as something of a surprise, then, that May is such a quiet person off the field.

"He's pretty reserved off the field," Kelleher said. "But he's well-respected by his teammates."

Despite his quiet demeanor, May is a leader by example, according to Kelleher, and will continue to step into more of a leadership role as he gains more experience. "I think the players will be looking up to Jon to see the type of work ethic that he has and what it takes to be able to go out there and perform on Saturday," Kelleher said.

After college, May, an economics concentrator, is not yet sure what he wants to do. "I'm still trying to figure out my end goal in terms of a career," May said. "I'll try to figure it out by the end of the year."

Luckily for the football team, May still has one year left at Brown. The defense will lose several key players to graduation after the season, including Yearwood, defensive end Kai Brown '08, and tri-captain linebacker Eric Brewer '08.

But with Jonathan May remaining to lead the defense, the future looks good for Brown football.


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