Tiger safeties preparing for season


As FHSU Football is gearing up for another season, the safeties/bandit position players are ready for what the season will bring, as Mason Perez will be the face of the position, along with Ty Cooper, Kaleb Pillow, and Sam Brandt, who will be anchors in the secondary. 

For Perez, he is looking to piece together another solid season in the black and gold. Last season, Perez put together a third-team All-MIAA performance for the Tigers on the field, and was an MIAA Scholar-Athlete Award winner, and a CSC Academic All-District selection. 


Perez was among the best on the field, ranked second in tackles 56 during the season – good for just over six tackles per game. Perez also had 2.5 tackles for loss, a punt black with a scoop, and a score with a pick against Missouri Southern. Perez, one of the most recognizable names and faces on the team, notices potential in the defense as a whole. 

“One thing that excited me this year is that guys are experienced and have game reps under their belts,” Perez said. “All of us on the defensive side know that last year wasn’t our year, but this season we have made strides to succeed.” 


Cooper is the other safety looking to defend the fort. Cooper played in all 11 games, including five starts as a sophomore safety. Last season, Cooper had 42 tackles, good for fourth most tackles on the team. Cooper had an interception and four pass breakups, which tied for second on the team last season. Cooper knows being a returner means other players on the team will look up to him. 

“It means a lot to be one of the guys to be looked up to and setting the example for the younger guys coming into the program,” Cooper said. “When I came into the program, I had guys to look up to, and now that I am one of the older ones, it has come full circle.”

Brandt, a junior safety listed on the roster, will play as a “bandit backer” when the Tigers send three defensive linemen to the trenches. Last season Brandt had an outstanding performance for the Tigers against the Mules of Central Missouri that earned him MIAA Defensive Player of the Week. In that game, Brandt had a season-high of nine tackles, his only interception of the season, and two pass breakups. For the season, Brandt competed in 11 games, had 26 tackles with 11 assists, three tackles for loss, and five pass deflections. But for Brandt, there was still work that needed to be done.

“For me, I want to get better at tackling, I thought that last year that was the weakest link in my game; after the season, I wanted to change that,” Brandt said.

The last big name for the safeties core is Kaleb Pillow. Last season, Pillow redshirted his freshman season, but the coaching staff is ready for Pillow to compete. 


“The spring was huge for me, working out but getting into the playbook helped me prepare for the start of this season,” Pillow said. “Not only in the spring but my freshman year, I was going up against starters and backups getting really good reps in, and I think that’s what helped them put trust in me.” 

All four of the safeties say a crucial part of their success and their ability to improve this season will be in the new position coach. Head Coach Chris Brown will be the safeties coach as well. For Brown, he loves being back on the defensive side of the ball. 

“I was on the offensive side of the ball for the past seven years, and I am glad that I am back on the defensive side because that is what I played in college,” Brown said. “ I love both sides of the ball, but I think the guys are happy I am their positions coach, to make them better every day.” 

Brown’s collegiate days were nothing short of perfection; as historic as Pitt State’s football program is, Brown is one of only three players to earn All-American honors three times in a career. In Brown’s senior year with the Gorillas playing in the national championship game, Brown had 21 tackles to help guide Pitt to a championship victory. Later that year, Brown was named CNN D2 National Player of the Year and one of the top 100 players in the final quarter century of the 20th century. Not only that but in 2015, Brown was inducted into the MIAA Hall of Fame, and then a year later, found himself in the Gorilla’s Hall of Fame. 

For the safeties, they love to work under Brown and earn the opportunity to learn from one of the best in their position. 

“We love Coach Brown as our position coach; he brings a whole new meaning of intensity to not only our meeting room but the practice field as well, and I think it will show in the next couple of weeks,” Cooper said.