Originally created 11/05/04

Duo is school's 'best tandem'



It would have sounded so ridiculously idealistic to anyone within earshot.

Foolish or not, Brian Bratton and Isaac West believed every word of their adopted creed.

Four years ago, when the Augusta natives were freshmen on the Furman football team, Bratton and West vowed they would be the best receiving tandem the school had ever seen.

There are still a few games left in their careers - including Saturday, when the No. 3 Paladins play host to No. 2 Georgia Southern - but that's precisely what the pair has accomplished.

"That was something we actually said to each other - 'We're going to be the best pair,' " Bratton said. "We've both worked hard and made the plays when the ball's been thrown our way.

"Everything's coming out the way that we wanted it to."

And then some.

West, a 2000 Butler High graduate, has a chance Saturday to become Furman's all-time leader in career receptions and yardage.

Currently he's third in receptions, with 119, seven behind Bear Rinehart. He's second in yards, with 1,916, 129 yards behind Chas Fox.

Bratton, a 2000 Lakeside graduate, isn't far behind in either category.

He's fourth in receptions, with 113, and seventh in yardage, with 1,549.

Bratton has 15 touchdown catches, and West is just behind him with 13.

"It's incredible what they've done and what they're still doing," Furman head coach Bobby Lamb said. "We've had some good players here, but I think this is probably the best tandem we've had at Furman."

Lamb said he originally recruited Bratton to play defensive back. After a few practices and watching him return kicks, he thought better of that decision.

The first kickoff Bratton ever returned was a 93-yard touchdown.

He returned two more kicks for scores in 2001, and both were of more than 100 yards.

At first, Bratton said, the fans screamed at him, "No, no, no!" Those shouts soon became, "Go, go, go!"

Besides being a freshman All-America as a return man, Bratton's other claim to fame is his friendship with Falcons quarterback Michael Vick.

He served a couple of years as Vick's escort when the team held its training camp at Furman.

"We try not to let that go to his head too much," West said of Bratton, who has Vick's cell number in his phone.

Now quick to throw joking jabs, Bratton and West only knew of one another when they lived in Augusta.

They might bump into each other at the mall, at award ceremonies and on the occasional fall Friday night.

They didn't become friends, though, until they signed with Furman, which currently has about 10 players from the CSRA.

A friendship was formed; geographical coincidence and competition on the football field were the vehicles.

"They both stepped on campus at the exact same time," Lamb said. "Ever since they did, it's been on. They've pushed each other on and off the field."

Bratton calls it a "collaboration" when the pair is on the field together.

"We push each other to make plays," Bratton said. "We know how capable we are. We know how deadly we are together. Basically we go out there to show everyone we're the best two in the country.

"We want the (defensive backs) to know we're better than them when we go out there."

Sounds brash, but most defensive backs would attest to that.

The brotherhood the duo has forged extends beyond the boundaries of the sideline.

West and Bratton were roommates for a while, and their families have become friends over time, too.

The Brattons and the Wests sometimes ride with one another to games, and eat after watching their sons play.

"It's kind of neat the way its worked out," West said. "I never saw it coming like this."

Who knows? Maybe it's not over.

It's at least a possibility that Bratton and West could make pro rosters next season.

Lamb said scouts have been inquiring about them all year long.

So, wouldn't it be something if they wound up on the same roster?

If they make it their mantra, don't bet against it.

Reach Travis Haney at (706) 823-3304 or travis.haney@augustachronicle.com