Each day, he comes to work with a smile on his face and a positive attitude. Sounds easy enough, but not when you consider what he’s dealt with off the field, most recently his father’s death in January.
He started playing football in eighth grade.
“I really wasn’t feeling school,” Brown said. “The only thing that kept me in school was gym, playing sports. After that, everything just got rolling.”
“Letters (from colleges) started coming in. My coaches started telling me I had a great chance and I just ran with it.”
Knowing he had a future in the game was the first part of football that saved his life. The second was football keeping him from taking a trip to Denver, Colo., to visit family during the summer of 2004.
“That summer, I really started getting into going to workouts,” Brown said. “I was supposed to go hang out with my cousins, but on the Fourth of July, they got into an altercation and now they’re all locked up. I’ve got one cousin that’s getting ready to get the death penalty.”
“I could have been there, with them, in jail,” Brown said.
Brown did it all for his high school team. He played defensive end and tackle, offensive line, kicked and punted, and scored some touchdowns as a fullback. He got his academics in order and was a full qualifier out of high school, but went to nearby Southwest Mississippi Community College.
It was there that Troy found their prized left tackle. Offensive coordinator Kenny Edenfield is close friends with a coach at the school. Since Brown was a qualifier out of high school, he could transfer to Troy after his first semester.
Last year, he played at around 330 pounds. This spring, it was down to 320. Now, it’s 308.
“I just finally started doing something right,” Brown said. “I stopped being a follower and started to be a leader. When we do our running, I’m up to the front of the group now. I’m the third or fourth one to finish.”
Nothing could have prepared him for what happened on Jan. 13, when his uncles called to tell him that his father had a heart attack and later died. Ellis Jackson was a logger in south Mississippi and played a big part in keeping Brown away from trouble.
“The first thing I did was that I broke down in tears,” Brown said. “I called my uncle back and told them I wanted to come home right away, but he told me to wait and come down for the funeral.
“I just kept staying in the Word (Bible). Once somebody’s gone, you can’t sit around and sorrow about it too much. They’re gone, you can’t bring them back.”
Brown, who will graduate next May and wants to be a probation officer after football so he can help troubled kids, took in his 19-year-old brother Joseph to live with him in Troy.
“He’s just leaning on me right now, because he doesn’t have anybody else,” Brown said. “It’s kind of tough. There’s nothing out there in the streets. I was going to have to get him away from that. There’s a lot of bad influences at home, so I had to get him up here.”
Meanwhile, one of Troy’s team leaders keeps going to class and practice with a positive outlook. He has NFL scouts attending practices to watch him, but is focused on ending his Trojan career with a bang.
“One thing about James Brown is that in the three years he’s been here, he has not come to practice or a game without a great attitude,” Edenfield said. “If you’ve got a great attitude, you’ve got a chance to be good. With his ability, the sky’s the limit for him.”