October 4, 2009
by Jim Donaldson, Providence Journal Columnist
PROVIDENCE -- There always seemed to be a game of football going on in the backyard of the Farnham house in Andover, Mass. Kids throwing, kids catching, kids running. Young Buddy Farnham particularly liked catching the ball, then dodging defenders on his way to an imaginary end zone.
But, while the other kids in the neighborhood dreamed of being NFL stars, Farnham dreamed of starring at Brown.
"The other kids would pretend they were Jerry Rice or Cris Carter," he said. "I wanted to be Sean Morey.
"I grew up watching him play at Brown. I idolized him as a kid. After meeting him, seeing the type of person he is, I don't see a better role model."
When Brown coach Phil Estes looks at Farnham, who caught two touchdown passes and set up a third TD with a 69-yard punt return in the Bears' 28-20 victory over URI on Saturday afternoon at rain-soaked Brown Stadium, he sees Morey.
"He's one of the hardest-working guys I've ever been around," Estes said. "He watches hours of film, studying every aspect of the game, trying to get better."
"I want to be known," Farnham said, "as someone who pushes himself, someone that no one works harder than."
It was that type of work ethic that enabled Morey to make it in the NFL, when most people thought he was too small and too slow. And it is that type of work ethic that has made Farnham - generously listed at 6 feet tall and 185 pounds - one of the best players in the Ivy League.
"He never misses a practice," Estes said. "He plays hurt. He's not loud. He's not boisterous. He's a blue-collar player. He's a complete player. I don't think it gets much better than Buddy Farnham."
Morey, who left Brown after the 1998 season to begin a long career in the National Football League, in which he has won a Super Bowl with the Steelers and played in another with the Cardinals, still holds the Ivy League records for receiving yards in a season (1,434 in 1997) and a career (3,850), as well as for touchdown catches in a season (15, in 1997) and career (39).
Farnham also has put up some impressive numbers for the Bears.
As a sophomore in 2007, he led the Ivy League in receiving with 78 catches for 885 yards and 10 touchdowns. He made 63 receptions last season, for 816 yards and 6 TDs as the Bears won the Ivy League championship. He also ran for 3 TDs and, as if that weren't enough, he led the team in punt and kickoff return yardage, as well.
"I just want the ball in my hands," he said Saturday.
Farnham always wanted to come to Brown -- which should hardly be surprising, considering that not only was his father, Mark, an all-Ivy wide receiver for the Bears, but so was his uncle Bob. Another uncle, Paul, was a second-team selection.
All four Farnhams have worn the same number - 46. It's a family tradition Buddy is proud to carry on.
"I had other options as far as places to play," he said, "but, when it came down to it, I felt I belonged at Brown. I felt at home here.
"I grew up watching Brown football. When I was little, I dreamed about coming to Brown, playing here and wearing number 46, like my Dad and my uncles. Now I'm living the dream."
Farnham is a nightmare for opposing defenders.
Twice in the first half on Saturday, he caught TD passes from Kyle Newhall. The first was a 32-yarder with 6:10 to play in the first quarter. The second came on the first play after Newhall had an interception that went off a receiver's hands returned 75 yards for a touchdown that gave URI a 14-6 lead midway through the second quarter. Newhall confidently came back out throwing, finding Farnham for 42 yards and a TD.
Farnham finished the game with five catches for 100 yards. Through three games, he leads the Bears with 23 catches for 256 yards and three TDs. He's averaging 21.6 yards on seven kickoff returns and a dazzling 16.8 yards on six punt returns, thanks to that 69-yarder late in the third quarter, a highlight-film return on which he dodged tacklers and broke away from them before being pushed out of bounds at the URI 5-yard line.
"We stressed all week making big plays on special teams," said Farnham, whose 97 total yards on four punt returns yesterday was the third-highest single-game total in Brown history.
"That's what Buddy does - make big plays," Estes said.
"I don't think about what I'm doing," said Farnham. "I just do it. I just catch it and run."
He particularly enjoys running back punts, he said, because: "I can be more creative, rather than just running a set route."
Despite his family history, Farnham says it wasn't as if his dad and uncles insisted Brown should be his only route to collegiate football success.
"They let me decide," he said. "They didn't put any pressure on me to come. Of course, they didn't have to - this was where I always wanted to be."