Sometimes we don’t understand why a man does what he does. Sometimes we ought not try to understand him. What we should do now and then is take a step backward, salute the man and say, “Bravo.”
That’s what we should do for Jason Brown, a retired NFL center who left the game before it left him a cripple. But that’s not the reason to salute Brown, because scores of NFL players have quit while their health and their bodies remained sound.
None of those players, however, retired and did what Brown has done.
In life after the NFL, he’s turned to farming land in North Carolina. His decision might not have seemed unusual if the 328-pound Brown had a background in farming.
He did not.
What he had, instead, was belief in his work ethic, support from farmers nearby and his faith in God.
Yet even He might not have thought Brown was making a wise decision when he left millions of dollars behind to chase a different future. Brown made his decision for a larger purpose.
“I question how much attention is given to football,” Brown said in a profile ESPN wrote about him.
So do others. In a society that is obsessed with sports, football stands at the top of people’s obsession. Fans bet heavily on football; they turn ordinary people like Johnny Manziel into icons; and they cheer hard hits that make great highlights while destroying men’s bodies.
Brown knew all of this. He had heard the cheers, and he had contributed his share of teeth-rattling blocks. Yet the adulation he got didn’t seem to matter beyond the playing field itself. He looked for a larger purpose for his life, a life that God led him to. So he retired.
“My agent told me, ‘You’re making the biggest mistake of your life,’” Brown said in a CBS News report. “And I looked right back at him and I said, ‘No, I’m not. No, I'm not.’”
God does work in mysterious ways, and good thing He does. For in North Carolina, His work with Brown has a purpose: to make life better for folks who need helping hands.
In toiling his 1,000 acres, Brown is planting and harvesting sweet potatoes.
“When you see them pop out of the ground, man, it's the most beautiful thing you could ever see,” he said in a Sporting News article.
The people he feeds probably won’t dispute him here. For they welcome and thank his generosity, seeing it come to them without governmental strings or partisan rancor.
For that fact alone, Brown deserves more applause this Thanksgiving week than he ever got for pancaking defensive linemen. What man makes such a sacrifice without wanting the fanfare that comes with it?
No one really … no one but Jason Brown.
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(Photo: Robert Willett/Raleigh News & Observer/MCT/Getty Images)