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Farm team

Jason Brown’s radical life change is touching more lives than he could have predicted

Former NFL player Jason Brown supervises the harvest of sweet potatoes for the needy. Robert Willett/Raleigh News & Observer/MCT/Landov

Farm team
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The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. God is proving it, says one former NFL player.

“It really is true,” Jason Brown told me from his Louisburg, N.C., farm, complete with 100-year-old farmhouse, dairy barn, and 1,000 acres of uninterrupted green.

If Brown sounds familiar, he recently gained national fanfare for leaving the NFL to be a farmer and give away what he grows. The former St. Louis Ram spent autumn harvesting and delivering 10,000 pounds of cucumbers, 100,000 pounds of sweet potatoes, and one of his own children, who came faster than the midwife.

Many who hear the story, though, are puzzled even as they praise Brown, football’s highest paid center until the Rams cut him in early 2012. Brown baffled more than his agent by turning down his own top three teams to move home to North Carolina.

Yet Brown told me leaving football was a long time coming. In late 2011, despite two children and a mansion with two fully stocked bars, he and wife Tay were “dying inside,” likely headed for divorce. Then a professed Christian, he admits Jesus was his ticket to forgiveness and little else until he symbolically released his grip on money and football. “Like, literally, I poured thousands of dollars of unopened liquor down the drain that evening,” he told me.

After putting their home up for sale before they really knew what they were supposed to be looking for, years of thinking about farming after football took on new meaning. A farm north of Raleigh became available, he learned some farming basics from YouTube, and most of the rest has been donated, from plants to planters to 600 volunteer reapers.

The result, First Fruits Farm, is an extension of Wisdom for Life, the Browns’ organization that seeks through community and service to boost Bible literacy.

Some point out Brown could have bought more food playing football, but it’s not the same, he says. The “way to a man’s heart” is by meeting his needs. Personally. Showing radical love can start a conversation that he can point back to Jesus’ radical love. Little did he know that virtually every form of U.S. media would beat a path to his door to get in on that conversation.

Brown wants to diversify and expand crops for the coming year to utilize more acres, involving area churches in the process. But despite his new “Farmer Brown” reputation, he told me, “I literally still know nothing about farming.”

His business plan? “Obedience.”

Mumps the word

The National Hockey League’s mumps problem grew worse over the holidays, with two more Pittsburgh Penguins diagnosed Christmas weekend. New cases have been surfacing regularly since mid-October, affecting at least 15 players on five teams and two referees. One case resulted in hospitalization. It’s not uncommon for viruses like the flu to spread in a locker room, but the swollen cheeks of league star Sidney Crosby last month caused quite a stir. Many teams have scrambled to vaccinate their players. —A.B.

Four’s company

Making for a memorable Christmas Eve, defending Masters champion Bubba Watson and his wife announced their second adoption. “Caleb has a brand new baby sister, Dakota. Watson Family is now 4 and we are so blessed!” tweeted the outspoken Christian. Watson’s success as an athlete gives a high profile to his adoptions, beginning with Watson’s tearful Masters win just weeks after adopting Caleb in 2012. Watson won a second green jacket in April—with a wobbly, wavy-haired toddler on the green to greet him. The Watsons said they’ll release more information once their latest adoption is final. —A.B.

Andrew Branch Andrew is a World Journalism Institute graduate and a former WORLD correspondent.


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