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INDOOR FOOTBALL: Axemen receiver Browder is determined to find success

BEMIDJI — Wide receiver Philander Browder was one of the very first players to sign with the Bemidji Axemen back in October. Having a team that showed a true desire for his services meant much to the graduate of Tuskegee University.

“They felt like my athletic ability was unstoppable,” Browder said of the Axemen staff. “I feel like my speed is enough to beat any defensive back I face. When they chose me that early, it felt good.

“I just want to help bring a championship to Bemidji.”

Head coach Robert Fuller was impressed by Browder’s commitment to finishing his degree and joining the team as soon as he could.

“Phil was one of our very first commitments back in October,” Fuller said. “He was hustling to finish up school and get his degree so he could get up here.”

Finishing his degree was a priority for Browder, as he is determined to find success in life. Whether it is in football or sales and business, he wants to be successful.

Browder’s inspiration comes from his father who went from drug lord to a pastor who traveled all over the world during Browder’s childhood.

“He is my role model,” Browder said of his father. “I feel like if he can change, anybody can change. He was one of the biggest drug lords in Alabama, and when he had my sister he became a youth pastor and turned his life around.

“Seeing him turn his life around to help our family has inspired me. I just want to be successful and be like him.”

Like all football players, Browder’s ideal career was playing in the NFL or CFL, and he nearly had that opportunity right out of college.

His 4.34 40-yard dash time at his pro day caught the attention of several NFL teams, including the Houston Texans, who brought him in for an individual workout.

“I thought I was going to be picked up by the Texans, but that did not happen,” Browder said.

Despite not making it to the big stage immediately, Browder hopes to use the IFL as a place to polish his game to advance to the next level.

“This league is like a developmental league,” Browder said of the IFL. “My number one goal is still to make it to the NFL or CFL.”

“He has a lot of ability,” Fuller added. “For him now, it is just about the mental ability and fine-tuning his craft.”

Entering Saturday’s game, Browder had five catches for 75 yards and two touchdowns in his rookie campaign with the Axemen.

“Coming in as a rookie is not easy,” Fuller said. “You are competing against veterans and learning the game. He has been very steady and has improved each week.”

Browder said he was originally recruited as a defensive back by Tuskegee but moved to wide receiver during his sophomore season. He totalled 860 yards on 75 catches in his collegiate career.

Through the first six games with Bemidji, Browder feels that among the team’s biggest strengths are the versatility of the receivers and the passing attack.

“We have a great receiving corps,” Browder said. “We have all of the weapons you need. We have 6-7 Nick Truesdell, speedy Ryan Balentine, and myself. This whole team is like a family to me.”