There are people who seem to be destined for one particular position in life – to fulfill a particular role or profession. Such was the case with a boy born in Henderson, North Carolina in May of 1983. Located near the Virginia state line with a population of around 15,000 – Henderson defines “small town America”. The youngest of three – he had an older brother and an older sister – the boy led a somewhat typical and relatively quiet life. As is common with most younger brothers, he grew up idolizing his older brother.
He also grew up rapidly in the physical sense. He was larger than most – stronger and quicker – an unquestioned elite athlete for his age. As a Viking at Northern Vance High School in Henderson – he set state records in track and field for the discus. It was in football that he really stood out. He played both ways – defense and offense – was twice named conference lineman of the year and was voted by his peers as captain on the all-state team at the North Carolina Shrine game. He seemed destined to earn a full scholarship as a football player at a university in the top level of college athletics. There were early whispers of his having NFL potential – of becoming a professional football player.
Many had overlooked another aspect of this boy – his intelligence. He finished academically in the top ten of his class, was a member of the National Honor Society and attended the North Carolina Governor’s School – a publicly funded residential summer program for intellectually gifted high school students in the state.
He was gifted both physically and intellectually. As expected, he was recruited by several major football programs. In 2001 he chose to attend school in his home state and accepted a scholarship to play football for the University of North Carolina. At that level, he played offense only and was eventually moved from playing tackle to playing center. His skills and performance grew – as did his reputation. The one-time whispers about the NFL became a reality when, after graduating in 2005, he was drafted in the fourth round by the Baltimore Ravens. He not only made the roster – he did well enough to reach free agency four years later.
In 2009 – as a free agent – the St. Louis Rams made him the highest paid center in the league when they signed him to a $37.5 million five year contract – $20 million of it guaranteed. Two years later he was pursued by several teams after he was let go by the Rams. There were more games to be played – more millions to be made – more football, fame and fortune to pursue. His phenomenal success as a football player – the money, the limelight, the star status are not what define him as a fearless brand.
What does make that designation is that Jason Brown quit football – he walked away from a game he had seemed destined since childhood to play – a game and a position that countless boys dream about being a part of. He didn’t just walk away – he left to become a farmer – yes, a farmer. His agent told him he was making the biggest mistake of his life – his response? “No I’m not!”
Fearless Brands embrace what is most important to themselves – they create their own destiny.
It wasn’t farming, per se, that called Jason – it was the overwhelming knowledge that his true destiny was to be of service. Brown was known by teammates to be a good man, a quiet man, a man of God. Jason had always known there was more to life than mere football – a bigger purpose.
Jason’s brother had entered the military at the age of 18. He was stationed in Germany in Army Intelligence when the U.S. was attacked on 9/11. Brown trusted that all would be fine – but found out differently when, in 2003 as a Junior at UNC, he received a call from his mother. His brother, Deucey as he was known, was killed in Iraq. Throughout his football career, Jason felt an emptiness when fans would clamor for player’s autographs and virtually ignore the servicemen and women on the field near them.
For Jason it was more than that – it had to do with his faith in God – it had to do with making a difference in life – in lives. He became committed to helping the less fortunate and is determined to do so by providing food for the hungry.
That helps to explain why – even though he had never been a farmer – Brown purchased a 1,000 acre farm near Louisburg, NC. He learned farming by studying videos on YouTube – which shouldn’t be surprising given the man’s intelligence. He bolstered that knowledge by seeking advice from local farmers. His enterprise is known as First Fruit Farm – named because he will donate the first crops to local food banks who, in turn, will feed the needy.
His efforts paid off last November when he harvested 10,000 pounds of cucumbers and 46,000 pounds of sweet potatoes. Over 200 volunteers and 13 trucks came together to make it happen and another 46,000 pounds would be harvested the following weekend. Brown’s vision is to make his 2015 harvest a major event to be called the Great Harvest Festival. He envisions involvement from local churches, live entertainment, fishing, hayrides, games and of course, harvesting the crops.
November was a big month for another reason. Jason’s wife, pregnant with their fourth child, went into labor so quickly that the midwife scheduled to help with the birth couldn’t be there – so Jason delivered the baby, a son. He is named after Brown’s brother Lunsford Bernard Brown II (Deucey) – Lunsford Bernard Brown III will be called Trey.
At this point I typically make comments which relate the subject’s story with building your fearless brand. This week, I cannot imagine a stronger way to do that than by sharing some of Jason Brown’s own words.
“I learned there’s no correlation between celebrity and integrity.”
“When I think about a life of greatness, I think about a life of service.”
“I’ve never felt more successful – not in man’s standards, but in God’s eyes.”
“Love is the most wonderful currency that you can give anyone.”
Jason Brown followed his heart – his deepest calling. That is what makes him a fearless brand. Whether it’s your personal brand, your company, a product or service – the only guaranteed way to deliver your greatest value is to know your why – embrace it, follow it, believe in it. You’ll realize success in ways you have never imagined – and it will astound you.