Standing with Flower Hill Primary School students, Gary Brown looked awfully big. Heck, the former NFL player looks big when he’s alongside anyone. He has an equally big heart, which recently opened up for second and third grade youngsters.
Mr. Brown played football and basketball at Brentwood High School, graduating in 1989. He went on to play football and win Junior College All-American honors at Nassau Community College and he later played at Georgia Tech.
A member of the Suffolk Sports Hall of Fame, Mr. Brown played pro football in the NFL for four years with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers. An offensive lineman, he was on the Packers when Green Bay won Super Bowl XXXI in 1997. He also played for the Barcelona Dragons in NFL Europe and for the Hamilton Tiger Cats in the Canadian Football League.
Once his pro career wrapped up, Mr. Brown turned his attention to the Gary Big Brown 68 Foundation and its mission “to provide aid and mentoring to the sick, troubled and underprivileged youths and their families in the tri-state area,” according to the organization.
Mr. Brown also works with the Brentwood Bay Shore Breast Cancer Coalition, Ronald McDonald House of Long Island, Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Long Island, St. Jude’s Children Hospital and Susan G. Komen Greater New York City, an organization devoted to battling breast cancer.
During his visit to Flower Hill, Mr. Brown shared his experiences as a pro athlete and explained the perseverance he needed to accomplish his goals.
“He encouraged the second and third graders to follow their dreams, emphasizing that possibilities present themselves through hard work, dedication and kindness,” Principal Lucia Laguarda said. “He discussed respectful sportsmanship, winning and losing with grace and the importance of showing kindness to others.”
Pro football players are big by definition so Mr. Brown fits the mold perfectly. His sheer size demanded attention and Flower Hill’s students and staff gave it to him. They were eager to speak with him, shake his hand and even high-five him.
“It was wonderful to see all their enthusiasm,” Ms. Laguarda said. The second and third graders and their teachers sent Mr. Brown off to with applause and thanks as he headed to his not stop.
“Throughout Gary’s career and travels, he remained steadfast on the principles and morals instilled in him by his loving parents Bettie Brown and Tommie Brown,” according to the Gary Big Brown 68 Foundation website. “These attributes continue to reward our community as Gary is actively giving back as a mentor to at youth risk and is available for the enhancement of any societal needs.”