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 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.
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.”