Hall monitor: Local 369th Soldier attends event for former teammate, Hall-of-Famer Emmitt Smith
August 18, 2010
FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- Staff Sgt. Alexander Brown Jr. spends his days teaching Soldiers how to become human resource specialists. But long before joining the Army, Brown played in the same offense as Pro Football Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith.
Brown had a chance to catch up with the legendary Dallas Cowboys and Arizona Cardinals running back earlier this month during Smith's enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. Brown, with the 369th Adjutant General Battalion, played with Smith on the Escambia High School football team in Pensacola, Fla.
"We had been playing beside each other for four years," said Brown, who was a wide receiver on the team. "We won two state championships and were ranked No. 1 in the nation our senior year."
Brown, who, along with 15 other former high school teammates, was invited to attend Smith's enshrinement into the Hall of Fame, said he was proud to see his friend and former teammate receive the recognition he deserved.
"We always knew Emmitt would be something special," he said. "He had always been a pro-rate athlete since middle school."
Twelve players from the Escambia Gators team that won the state championship their senior year went on to play college football, including Brown, who played for Georgia Southern University.
"Even though Emmitt was the star of the team, each of us had a tremendous work ethic instilled in us by our coaches," Brown said.
This past June, Brown and several other high school teammates were contacted by ESPN to appear in a special about Smith's high school years.
"After the taping for the show all of us got tighter," Brown said. "I had the opportunity to talk with Emmitt one-on-one and spend some quality time with him away from the cameras and spotlight."
When time came around for Smith's hall of fame, Brown asked his leadership for some time off to travel to Ohio for the ceremony.
During the festivities backstage, the Fort Jackson Soldier had the chance to chat and pose for photos with such NFL legends as Jerry Rice, Eric Dickerson, Roger Staubach, Michael Irvin and Bruce Smith.
"It was surreal being in the same room with them all. I had to keep telling myself that I was not dreaming. If you are a football fan, what more could you want'"
Former Escambia teammate Sgt. 1st Class Barry McClain, who is assigned to the National Ground Intelligence Center in Charlottesville, Va., said several of the fans mistook Brown for an NFL celebrity.
"... One of the fans said 'Hey, there's Eric Dickerson.' Then all of the fans started gathering around him and asking for autographs. It was crazy," McClain said. "It was a fun experience. But I really enjoyed reconnecting with Alexander. We picked up just like high school was last week."
Brown said he has tried to keep up with his former friend and teammate since they graduated from high school in 1987.
"We keep in contact through other people since he has so many obligations. I communicate with his family and younger brothers," he said.
Brown said he got a kick out of watching Smith perform on Dancing with the Stars, a television reality series the former Dallas Cowboy won in the fall of 2006 with partner Cheryl Burke.
"I laughed a little bit," he said. "It reminded me of our high school days at the local dances and just Emmitt clowning around in the locker room."