Chicago Prospect Overcomes Rough Upbringing to Become Division-1 Commit

Chicago Phillips junior safety Jamal Brown   

I first met Jamal Brown in the Winter and knew him like I would any other prospect. He was a good player, but his high school, Chicago Phillips was not known for pumping out tons of Division-1 talent, so despite his chiseled 6-foot-1, 190-pound frame and penchant for contact, I knew he would have to earn every offer he got.

I also knew the culture at Phillips was changing. Their staff, lead by head coach Troy McAllister and assitant coach Michael Larson were putting in the necessary time and effort to getting their players recruited, so Brown and several of his teammates with college ability, would be put in a good position to make their dreams come true.

When Western Michigan offered Brown a scholarship in early April, he jumped on it, committing almost instantly. It surprised me, as I’m sure it did with others as he was a kid who may have been in line for more offers as we moved through the spring evaluation period and into summer camp season. I spoke with him after his commitment and asked him why he chose Western and why so quickly.

"I have a pretty unique situation," he says. "I’m a high-risk player for them, so I really appreciate it. I told [Broncos head coach P.J. Fleck] about my past and story and Coach believed in me. I’m not comfortable with people believing in me. I’m used to people doubting me. Coach Larson believes in me and now I have two people that believe in me. I got to be around the coaches and players at Western and I have somewhere I can feel at home now."

I didn’t know Brown’s past, so I asked him what he meant by "high-risk."

He told me about how he grew up around drugs and violence. His uncles, several of whom were on drugs, physically abused him. He lived with his grandparents, both of whom were on drugs. The most horrific account was when he saw his grandfather murder his grandmother. He moved in with his brother, who was arrested, forcing Jamal to bounce from home to home.

Just one of those circumstances would be enough to negatively affect any child, but Brown has defied the odds. He is a leader for Phillips. He is a pleasure to be around according to his coaches, and he is now headed to college.

Jamal Brown is the type of kid they make movies about.

As the debate rages on about college football unions and paying players, I’d love for someone to ask Jamal if he thinks a scholarship is payment enough. The opportunity to be the first person in his family to graduate is in front of him, and potentially even playing beyond college and those are chances in life that he will never take for granted.

For more, check out Jamal’s full story: Brown a Model of Persverance