Former Crimson Tide linebacker looks to life after playing career
DALLAS — Former Minden High standout linebacker Byron Brown got to live out every high school players' dream as he got the chance to play college football.
But after three years at SMU, Brown is seeing his dream come to an end. Doctors recommended he give up football due to the concussions he has suffered while in college.
"The doctors suggested I give up football," Brown said. "In fact they listed me as unable to play. It hit me really hard."
Brown suffered concussions in back-to-back games against UCF and and Southern Mississippi.
"The first was the lighter of the two," Brown said. "The second one was really the nail bitter. I was coming down on the second half kickoff. We were trailing at the half, and I was frustrated and sort of let my better judgement fade away. I ran full speed into two defenders and the impact from the hit and from landing on the turf pretty much did the trick."
Brown was able to leave the field on his own, but he later collapsed and was rushed to the hospital.
"Coming out of Minden High, I never suffered any concussions," Brown said. "They really start to come out of nowhere. I guess the hard hitting style of play I had at Minden High and at SMU finally caught up with me."
An estimated 300,000 sports-related traumatic brain injuries, most of them concussions, occur annually in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Initially, Brown struggled with his decision to end his playing career.
"At first I had some misgivings," he said. "I didn't want to stop playing before my time. It really hit hard when I saw guys like Morris Claiborne who I had the honor to play against and run against in track meets, have success and get drafted."
But Brown then came to terms with his decision.
"When I really had time to think about my career as an athlete, I realized I didn't have any regrets," he said. "I gave all I could whether it was a Friday night at Minden High, or a Saturday at SMU. Whether I was starting or just a role player I embraced my role and played with all I had. With that in mind I had no misgivings or regrets about having to give up football."
But football isn't totally out of his future as Brown envisions a career with the sport as a coach or as a trainer.
"My short term plans right now are to continue to pursue my degree," Brown said. "Now that I have more time for school I'm hopeful to finally reach that 3.0 I promised myself I would have before I leave this university. My long term goals are to stay involved in athletics. I have been told I would make a great coach, so I'm pursing that right now. I have an internship set up with our strength coach and once I graduate, I hope to get a Graduate Assistant job with our defensive coordinator Tom Mason."
Brown would also like to come back to Minden and make a difference.
"I'd like to come back home and help Minden kids with better exposure to get into major universities," he said. "I want to give our kids an option not to just stay in the streets but to inspire to do great things and be somebody that people can look up to. That's a long term goal that will never change."
Despite the sudden ending, Brown has fond memories of his time at SMU.
"My time as a SMU football player was well spent," he said. "I learned a lot about the game from our coaches. As a football players I was able to meet great players like Deion Sanders and Michael Irvin. I even had a chance to meet President George Bush. As a SMU football player I was able to become a better athletes and a role model to the kids of Dallas who love college football players."
Brown recaps his favorite games at SMU.
"The highlight of my career would have to be the trip to Hawaii to play the Hawaii Bowl," he said. "Being a freshman and a kid from a small town, I was amazed of what the world had to offer. Also, I would have to say when when we beat TCU on their home turf to take home the Iron Skillet and ruin their undefeated record at home, was a great memory. Another memory would have to be first time I was able to suit up as a college football player."
Brown said given the chance, he wouldn't change a thing about his playing career.
" I have enjoyed everything about my career from the age of 13," he said. "My career has been nothing but a blessing from God. I gave it all I had everytime I steeped on the field."
Brown credits his upbring and his hometown in helping him reach his goals.
"I would like to say to everyone back home that I love you all," he said. "I want to thank everyone for believing in me and for helping me get to where I am now. If it wasn't for my friends and family back home, I have no idea where I would be. I also want to say with every game I played at Minden High and at SMU, I never stopped believing that I could do great things, and thanks to the people and the city of Minden, I did just that."