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Jerome Brown among FHSAA Hall of Fame inductees

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Jerome Brown

Jerome Brown’s jersey number (99) was retired by the Philadelphia Eagles more than two decades ago. The University of Miami has already inducted him into its sports hall of fame. The community center in Brooksville is named in his honor.

There have been so many tributes through the years for the former Hernando standout who was killed in a car crash, along with his 12-year-old nephew, in June of 1992. 

Now the state is paying homage to Brown, too.

Last month, the Florida High School Athletic Association informed Hernando administrators that Brown would be included in this year’s hall of fame class. The state’s governing body for high school sports made it official by listing all of the inductees in a release last week. Brown joins Keswick Christian volleyball and girls basketball coach Karrmayne King as the locals in the 2020 class.

The ceremony will be held at the Hilton University of Florida Conference Center on Sept. 27.  

“This was something that was a long time coming,” Dee Brown said of his father’s induction. “It helps to keep his memory alive.”

The talent was evident in high school. Brown dominated opposing high school linemen, earning Parade All-American honors as a senior in 1982. He also excelled as a kicker, often booming the ball between the uprights on kickoffs. 

Even though Brown weighed more than 250 pounds, he could move, particularly around the base paths. Brown was among the leaders in stolen bases on the 1982 squad that was ranked second in the state. 

At Miami, Brown used his size and speed to make an immediate impact. He played as a freshman on the 1983 national championship team and was a consensus All-American as a senior in ‘86.

Jerome Brown
Jerome Brown/Photo credit: Miami Athletics

 “Jerome wanted to quit his freshman year (at Miami),” said Tim Jinkens, who coached Brown in junior high and became one of his best friends. “He was getting a little homesick, but he stayed.”

Often, Brown returned to visit, bringing along college teammates such as Alonzo Highsmith and Melvin Bratton. 

The trips home continued once Brown got to the NFL. The Eagles’ first-round pick (ninth overall) in the 1987 draft joined one of the most ferocious defensive lines ever assembled. Brown teamed with Hall of Famer Reggie White on one side to wreak havoc. 

Jerome Brown and Reggie White
Jerome Brown and Reggie White/Photo credit (including feature above): Philadelphia Eagles

The two became close. White often was a guest instructor for the youth camps Brown held in Brooksville during the offseason. 

Their friendship was featured in the NFL films documentary series A football life. 

White was scheduled to speak at a Billy Graham Crusade the day Brown died. Still stunned by the news, White choked back tears while telling the crowd what had happened to his beloved teammate. 

Brown was a Pro Bowl and All-Pro selection each of his last two seasons (1990 and ‘91) before he died. The Eagles retired his jersey the following season. His locker remained intact. Teammates vowed to win a Super Bowl title as a tribute to Brown. 

That did not happen until 2018 when the Eagles beat the Patriots in Super Bowl LII (52). The title came on Brown’s birthday. He would have turned 52 that year. 

There are plenty of Eagles’ fans in Brooksville, all of whom were rooting for their adopted team to win in Brown’s honor that day. 

“The kids might not know as much about him, but there are still plenty of people at the school who still talk about Jerome,” said his sister, Cynthia Brown Jackson, now a social worker at Hernando High. 

In 1995, Jinkens helped put together the Jerome Brown Youth Foundation, which provides annual scholarships. Five years later, the Jerome Brown Community Center opened, funded in part by some former Eagles players. The facility has become a popular recreational outlet for children. 

The weight room at Hernando High is named after Brown. But the school wants to do more. Last year, Leopards athletic director started the Jerome Brown Project to help raise funds for an artificial turf field, to build a statue of Brown and to name the field after him. Donations have slowed down so it might take five or six years for everything to be complete.    

“There are so many things that have gone on in the community to keep Jerome’s name alive,” Jinkens said. “His induction into the FHSAA Hall of Fame just adds to that.”  

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College Football

Former PHU/UCF star Jacob Harris goes to Rams in 4th round

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Jacob Harris, a former star at Palm Harbor University and Central Florida, was taken in the fourth round by the Los Angeles Rams.

Harris, a former soccer standout who did not start playing organized football until senior year at Palm Harbor University, has gone through a meteoric rise to become a sleeper pick in this year’s draft.

He started off as a walk-on at Western Kentucky before transferring to UCF. For the past two seasons, Harris was a dependable receiver for the Knights. As a senior, he had 30 catches for 539 yards and eight touchdowns.

Harris’ most memorable game came against USF this past season when he had five catches for 110 yards and three touchdowns.

With the Rams, Harris will join former East Lake star Tyler Higbee in a group of tight ends that features plenty of locals.  

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College Football

The local list of potential NFL picks

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The NFL Draft concludes Saturday. Plenty of locals have the potential to be picked. Below is the list of former area stars who could hear their name called. All were either on mock drafts or were selected to an all-star game or NFL Combine. 

Photos courtesy of UCF Athletics

TE Jacob Harris, Palm Harbor University/UCF

Harris, a former soccer standout who did not start playing organized football until senior year at Palm Harbor University, has gone through a meteoric rise to become a sleeper pick in this year’s draft. He started off as a walk-on at Western Kentucky before transferring to UCF. For the past two seasons, Harris was a dependable receiver for the Knights. As a senior, he had 30 catches for 539 yards and eight touchdowns. Harris’ most memorable game came against USF this past season when he had five catches for 110 yards and three touchdowns. 

OL Shane McGough, Gaither/Florida International

The younger brother of former Gaither and FIU quarterback Alex McGough redshirted as a freshman before becoming a consistent starter on the Panthers’ offensive line. He was an all-Conference USA honorable mention selection in 2018 and 2020. This past season, McGough started in four of FIU’s five games as a center.  

WR Antonio Nunn, Jefferson/Buffalo

Nunn, a dynamic deep threat at Jefferson, redshirted his first season at Buffalo before rocketing up the depth chart. He started every game the past two seasons, finishing with a combined 86 catches for 1,271 yards and eight touchdowns. Nunn was a third-team all-MAC selection in 2019 and second-team selection this past season. 

Photo courtesy of Indiana University Athletics

WR Whop Philyor, Plant/Indiana

A first-team, all-state selection at Plant, Philyor became Indiana’s most dependable receiving target during his college career. He finished with 2,316 all-purpose yards (2,067 receiving, 134 rushing, 66 kick return, 49 punt return) in 38 games (22 starts).Philyor also is the Hoosiers’ s all-time leader in double-digit catch games (7), ranks fourth in receptions (180), fourth in 100-yard games (7), ninth in yardage (2,067) and is tied for 16th in touchdowns (12). He capped off his career by setting a Big Ten bowl and Outback Bowl record with 18 receptions for 81 yards. 

DL Justus Reed, CCC/Virginia Tech

A first-team, all-state selection, Reed led Clearwater Central Catholic to its only state final appearance as a senior in 2013. He started out at Florida before spending three seasons at Youngstown State. This past season, Reed transferred to Virginia Tech as a graduate student. He started in 10 of the Hokies’ 11 games, finishing with 28 tackles and 6.5 sacks.  

Photo courtesy of USF Athletics

DB K.J. Sails, East Bay/USF

A highly touted high school recruit, Sails spent his first three years in college at North Carolina before transferring to USF. As a junior, he led the Bulls in interceptions with three and recorded 22 tackles this past season. Sails gained notoriety this past summer when he organized a unity walk during the social justice movement that was attended by about 400 teammates, coaches, administrators and community members.  

Oregon's Jordon Scott/Photo credit: Oregon Athletics
Photo courtesy of Oregon Athletics

DL Jordon Scott, Pinellas Park/Oregon

The three-star high school prospect originally committed to Florida before signing with Oregon. He immediately became a force on the Ducks’ defensive line, earning FWAA freshman all-America honors in 2017. Scott opted to return to Oregon as a senior rather than turn pro and helped the Ducks reach the Pac-12 title game for the second straight season. 

Photo courtesy of TCU Athletics Communications

TE Pro Wells, Hollins/Texas Christian

As a senior at Hollins, Wells had a breakout season, finishing with 31 catches for 952 yards and five touchdowns. He played at Milford Academy and Northwest Mississippi Community College, where he became the No. 4 JUCO tight end in the nation. After redshirting in 2018 at Texas Christian, Wells turned a reliable red-zone target and led the team in touchdown receptions each of the past two seasons. 

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College Football

Tre McKitty goes to Chargers in the third round

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Georgia tight end Tre McKitty, who spent time at Wesley Chapel and Tampa Catholic before transferring to IMG Academy, was selected at the end of the third with the Los Angeles Chargers’ compensatory pick (97th overall). 

He becomes the first player with area ties taken in this year’s draft. 

A three-star recruit at IMG, McKitty started his college career at Florida State, where he played in 35 games and caught 50 passes for 520 yards and a pair of touchdowns. 

McKitty (photo above courtesy of UGA Athletic Association) went to Georgia as a graduate assistant this past season. He finished with six catches for 108 yards and a touchdown. 

The Chargers have a knack for bringing in local talent. Former Admiral Farragut standout Rayshawn Jenkins was selected in the fourth by the Chargers in 2017. Sean Culkin (Indian Rocks Christian/Missouri) and Artavis Scott (East Lake/Clemson) spent time with team as undrafted free agents.  

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