As a defensive back, Sheldon Brown didn’t get surprised very often, but he admits to being humbled twice in the last year. The former South Carolina All-American and 11 year NFL veteran was recently named to the 2015 class for the USC Association of Lettermen Athletics Hall of Fame and was honored as an SEC Football Legend last fall.
“It was shocking because I really don’t feel like I’m old enough to be receiving these types of awards yet,” Brown said. “I guess I am getting older though. It’s definitely an honor. So many more athletes probably deserve it before I do.”
Originally from Fort Lawn, South Carolina, Brown played for the Gamecocks from 1998-2001 and was a big part of laying the foundation for the success of the program. His career started with the Gamecocks combining for a 1-21 record during his first two seasons, but it turned around quickly as South Carolina posted 8 and 9-win seasons with back-to-back Outback Bowl victories in his final two years.
“Going 1 and 21 definitely builds character,” Brown said. “I went from 1-21 to an 11-year professional NFL career. You’re going to go through all types of adversity in your life. It’s all about how you respond to it. There were so many supportive people at South Carolina with our coaching staff and the educational staff. They were always supportive and motivating us to be great men and not just worried about football. I couldn’t have done anything I have achieved without my coaching staff and teammates as well as the education that I received. It all helped me get to this point and helped me have a professional career in the National Football League.”
Brown was a two-time All-America and All-SEC selection for the Gamecocks. He was drafted by Philadelphia in the second round of the 2002 NFL draft and enjoyed eight years with the Eagles and three with the Cleveland Browns. When he looks back at his days in the garnet and black, there are plenty of good memories of the relationships with fellow student-athletes and coaches, along with a season-opening win over New Mexico State in 2000 to get the program pointed in the right direction, along with two interceptions as a senior in a win over Clemson.
“That game against Clemson was the only game my grandmother was able to attend,” Brown said. “She had a stroke a few years before, and that was the first game she was able to go to. So that was special to me.”
I couldn’t have done anything I have achieved without my coaching staff and teammates as well as the education that I received. It all helped me get to this point and helped me have a professional career in the National Football League.
Brown’s considerate nature carried over into his professional career as he earned the “Good Guy Award” in 2008 by the Philadelphia Sports Writers Association for his accessibility and friendly manner when dealing with the press.
“That’s how I treated the media,” Brown said. “I just lived by the idea to treat everyone like you wanted to be treated. That’s what my parents and grandparents instilled in me. If I ever wronged anyone, I’d want them to let me know.”
Now 36 years old, Brown currently lives in Lake Wylie, South Carolina, with his wife Jenny and two children, Dion and Simone. Family is everything to Brown, and he hardly goes anywhere without them, including many South Carolina football games. He enjoys doing anything where he’s involved in the community and is coaching youth teams in various sports at the local recreation department. He is also helping out as an assistant football coach at a local high school.
“It’s the community we live in,” Brown said. “It’s the district where my kids go to school. So I’m very excited about being in the schools.”
While he continues to try to be a role model to the youngsters he coaches as well as his own children, Brown understands that most of the younger generation may not know him as a hall of famer. They know him as “Dad” or “coach.”
“My kids were really young when I was playing,” Brown said. “My son is nine now, and he’s just now really getting into sports. So it’s exciting for him to see these other athletes out there, but of course I’m not cool anymore. He loves the Stephon Gilmore’s of the world. He likes that new generation.”
His playing days may be over, but Sheldon Brown is still working hard so he won’t get caught off guard too often.
“I have to stay in shape a little bit because I have a little nine-year-old that’s coming to kick my rear end,” Brown laughed. “So when he’s 17 or 18, I need to still be able to put him in his place.”
Sheldon Brown earned the accolades bestowed up on him, and being a good parent and citizen never gets old.