NFL's Jason Brown found his sweet (potato) spot

by Karen L. Willoughby, |
From NFL star to Farmer Brown, Jason went from knocking down defensive linemen to digging up sweet potatoes. Screen capture from - Robert Willette

LOUISBURG, North Carolina (Christian Examiner) -- Jason Brown had it all. At 6-foot-3 and 320 lbs., he had size, speed and smarts enough to garner a $37 million, 5-year contract as center for the St. Louis Rams. It was an NFL record.

Screen capture from - Robert Willette

But he walked away from it all. It wasn't what God wanted for him, the then-29-year-old athlete said.

"I asked myself, 'How much is enough?' No man can take a single red cent with him to the grave, and no man has ever beaten the grave," Brown said in an article in the Henderson (N.C.) Dispatch. "I had worked long and hard enough, storing up riches on earth. It was time for me to move on the next phase of my life, and start storing up riches in heaven."

And on earth. Brown now has the time and energy to play with his three youngsters. When he's not farming, that is.

Brown bought a thousand-acre farm after he left the National Football League in April 2012. Not that he knew anything about farming. So he watched YouTube videos, talked with neighbors, replenished the soil, and earlier this month gave away 100,000 lbs. of sweet potatoes.

"God revealed to me that He had something greater in store for me, and that my family should move back to my home state of North Carolina and start a farm," Brown wrote on his website: "This really caught us by surprise because we knew nothing about farming. Yet, out of obedience, we started looking for available farmland.

"This is when Tay and I made a covenant with God," Brown said, in a nod to his wife. "We told Him that whatever place He blessed us with, we would name it FirstFruits Farm and that His people would receive the FirstFruits of whatever is produced from the land."

Four years before he left the NFL, Brown and his wife started a Bible distribution ministry they called Wisdom for Life.

"We believe God shares His perfect and heavenly wisdom with us to overcome the world," according to the WisdomForLife website. "God reveals much of Himself and His wisdom to us through His written Word. This is why Bible distribution and Bible literacy is the core of our mission. ...

"We always attempt to share the Gospel by sharing our hearts first," the website continues. "This is done through meeting the immediate needs of the community and having genuine fellowship with believers and non-believers. By sharing the same love that Jesus Christ has displayed to us all, we hope to win over lost souls for the glory of God's Kingdom."

This spring, Brown stocked a pond on his property with bigger-than-pan-sized fish, and invited youngsters from the community to a "first annual youth fishing derby" because "every child should know how to fish," he said. Participants received a Bible, backpack and Zebco fishing rod.

Next spring, Brown plans to give a variety of vegetable seeds so people can grow their own garden. "Every child should know how to sow a seed and tend to a garden, to produce fruits and vegetables," the farmer said. "That's one of the fundamentals of life."

He hopes to form partnerships with local churches and ministers, with the goal of planting gardens for youth to look after, as an extension of his Wisdom for Life ministry.

This June, Brown harvested 10,000 lbs. of cucumbers, which he gave to local Christian food ministries. Nov. 1-11, 500 volunteers gathered up row after row of the sweet potatoes he dug up to give away.

His website mirrors the man. Not a lot of talk, but lots of action.

The heart of the website is the "Wisdom 101" page, with Scripture readings from James 1:5-6 – Seek Wisdom; 2 Chronicles 1;7-12 – Solomon asks for wisdom; and James 3:13-18 – Two Kinds of Wisdom; plus a 45-minute video message, "How to receive wisdom from God."

Repetition. That's how God's message got through to Brown.

He'd been living a lavish lifestyle, with an 11,000-square-foot home in St. Louis, Missouri and amenities like a 45-foot pool, 12-seat theatre and much more. It was a lifestyle that had grown around his increasing fame as one of the Rams' top offensive linemen. Brown didn't think much about it, until the day in November 2011 he was inexplicably benched after starting in 84 consecutive games.

"After that I had a lot of time to think about my life and my values and what's important to me and my family," Brown told the Henderson Dispatch. "As a man, you have to do what's best not just for you and your family, but also you have to be in tune with God and His plan for your life as well."