At one point number 60, Jason Brown, was one of the best centers in the NFL.
At one point he had a five-year, $37 million contract with the St. Louis Rams.
And at one point he decided it was all meaningless – and just walked away from football.
Back in 2009, Brown signed the $37.5 million dollar contract with the Rams, making him the highest paid center in all of football. He earned about $25 million of that contract and decided to leave the final year’s $12.5 million on the table.
“My agent told me, ‘You’re making the biggest mistake of your life,'” said Brown. “And I looked right back at him and I said, ‘No I’m not. No I’m not.'”
So what could possibly trump the NFL?
You wouldn’t believe.
Jason Brown quit football to be a plain, old farmer — even though he’d never farmed a day in his life.
Asked how he learned to even know what to do, Brown said:
“Get on the Internet. Watch Youtube videos.”
Thanks to Youtube and some good advice from other farmers here in Louisburg, N.C., this week Jason finished harvesting his first, a five-acre plot of sweet potatoes.
“When you see them pop up out of the ground, man, it’s the most beautiful thing you could ever see,” said Brown. He said he has never felt more successful.
“Not in man’s standards,” said Brown. “But in God’s eyes.”
But God cares about the NFL, right? There are people praying for him to be on the field all the time.
“Yeah, there’s a lot of people praying out there,” said Brown. “But, when I think about a life of greatness, I think about a life of service.”
“It’s unusual for a grower to grow a crop just to give away,” said Rebecca Page, who organizes food collection for the needy. “And that’s what Jason has done. And he’s planning to do more next year.”
Brown has 1,000 acres here, which could go a long way toward eliminating hunger in this neck of North Carolina.
Brown’s First Fruits Farm already had yielded 10,000 pounds of cucumbers, also given away.
About half the sweet potato crop has been harvested, helped by the Society of St. Andrews. Rebecca Page, the Triangle coordinator of the gleaning group, had about 200 people and 13 trucks in the fields last week and hopes to have at least that many again Saturday.
The group usually goes into fields after a harvest and gleans the crops that were missed, but Brown told Page that he wanted to give away the entire crop.
“Saturday was simply a wonderful day, but… we’re in over our heads,” Page said of harvesting so many potatoes. “Potatoes are the perfect food, and there is such a great need.… I know that it is all good and that this is wonderful, but when you are in the middle trying to organize something this big, there is some anxiety. We need a lot of help, but a lot of people are going to get food.”
St. Andrews is a national group that links gleaners with farmers. The group has no trucks or storage areas and coordinates with shelters, food pantries and other distribution points.
The Inter-Faith Foodshuttle.org got 9,063 pounds of the potatoes last week. Food pantries and shelters in Durham, Wake Forest, Oxford, Warrenton, Granville County, Knightdale, Garner, Raleigh and Henderson got many more.
“We recover about 7 million tons of food a year and gleaning provides 38 to 40 percent of the produce we get,” said Cindy Sink, the marketing and communications director of Inter-Faith. “Gleaning is a wonderful way to get healthy food to people in our community.”
Brown knew little about farming when he bought the former dairy, but local farmer Len Wester lent his expertise. The potato plants, called slips, which are shoots that grow from mature potatoes to form new potatoes, were donated after David and Allen Rose of J.B. Rose and Sons in Nashville learned Brown was giving away his harvest.
“Every step of the way there has been someone to help,” Brown said. “I needed some fishing rods so the kids could go fishing, and Dennis Brennan came and gave me a carful of fishing equipment. God provides.”
Brown said he knew nothing about gleaning and really didn’t have a plan for how to disburse the harvest until Page contacted him and told him about St. Andrews.
“Miss Rebecca is another person who was put in my life at the right time,” he said.
San Francisco, Carolina and Baltimore contacted him about possibly joining their teams, but he decided he wanted to pursue his dream of farming for others.
“What he is doing is unbelievable,” said Page, the gleaning coordinator. “The time, the effort, the work, the cost. And he gives it away.”
“Love is the most wonderful currency that you can give anyone,” says Brown.
Source Credits: Steve Hartman for CBS News, Tim Stevens in News Observer, Daily Kos, Akshada Suvarna