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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.  

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“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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Lakewood’s Amari Niblack commits to Alabama

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Lakewood’s Amari Niblack had offers from 15 schools entering this week, including Florida, Florida State, Georgia and LSU. 

Then Niblack went to a camp at Alabama and picked up an offer from the Crimson Tide. 

That was all the three-star prospect needed to make up his mind. 

On Thursday, Niblack announced on social media that he committed to Alabama. 

A 6-foot-4 pass catching target, Niblack can play receiver or tight end. This past season, he had seven receptions for 126 yards and two touchdowns according to the stats listed on MaxPreps. 

This is the second straight season Alabama has landed an area receiver and the third time in the past five seasons the Crimson Tide has picked a local skill player.

Agiye Hall, who starred at Armwood and Bloomingdale, was part of the 2021 class. He was an early enrollee and has already made an impact with several highlight-worthy catches in the spring game. 

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Football: Local list of 2022 commits

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The Tampa Bay area always produces a tremendous amount of football talent. This year is no different. Several seniors have already pledged their allegiance to colleges. Here is the list, which is expected to grow considerably in the next few months. 

Armwood

WR Kye Stokes

College: Ohio State

Berkeley Prep

LB TJ Bullard

College: UCF

TE CJ Hawkins

College: Florida

Related: Berkeley Prep’s CJ Hawkins commits to Florida

Calvary Christian

OL Preston Cushman

College: Mississippi

Carrollwood Day

DL Brandon Cleveland

College: North Carolina State

Clearwater Academy

CB Rhyland Kelly

College: Minnesota

Clearwater Central Catholic

LB Melvin Jordan 

College: Oregon State

Gaither

DL Mario Eugenio

College: Michigan

Hillsborough

RB Jordaan Bailey

College: Pittsburgh

DB Adrian Ramsey

College: Howard

LB Joseph Sipp Jr.

College: Colorado State

Jesuit

WR Jaydn Girard

College: Wake Forest

ATH Junior Vandeross

College: Toledo

Related: Jesuit’s Junior Vandeross commits to Toledo

King

OT Tony Livingston

College: Florida

Related: Tony Livingston transfers to King

Lakewood

TE Amari Niblack

College: Alabama

Pinellas Park

PK Robert Gunn III

College: Clemson

Related: Pinellas Park’s Robert Gunn III commits to Clemson

Sickles

WR Javohn Thomas

College: USF

Tampa Catholic

OL Chris Williams

College: Florida A&M

Wharton

LB Daveon Crouch

College: Boston College

Wiregrass Ranch

QB Rocco Becht

College: Iowa State

Related: Wiregrass Ranch’s Rocco Becht commits to Iowa State

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Pinellas Park’s Robert Gunn III commits to Clemson

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Kickers typically are not offered scholarships while they are in high school. Most at the Division I-A level arrive as walk-ons with the chance to earn a scholarship based on their performance. 

Robert Gunn III is not your typical kicker. 

The Pinellas Park senior is ranked as the nation’s best at the position in the Class of 2022 according to Kicking World. That lofty status got the attention of college coaches.

Gunn III already has offers from six colleges, including Clemson and Texas.

The offer from the Tigers came on June 13 during an unofficial visit. Two days later, Gunn III ended the recruiting process by committing to Clemson. 

“I wanted to go to Clemson because of the people and how they care about the school so much,” Gunn III said. 

The Tigers have been successful landing area special teams stars. Former Jesuit and IMG standout Aidan Swanson will be a redshirt sophomore punter for Clemson this season. 

Now the Tigers will have an area kicker, too. 

This past season, Gunn III hit both of his field goal attempts and had 16 of his 19 kickoffs go for touchbacks. He also averaged 44 yards per punt.  

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