Having lost his father at an early age, USF freshman DÃJuan Brown was in search of a male role model. He found one in Denver Bronco Jimmy Spencer, another Belle Glades Central High School alumnus.
Ã¬HeÃs just been there for me through times when I needed a father figure or a big brother to talk to,Ã® Brown said. Ã¬I can pick up the phone any time of night and give him a call, and no matter what heÃs doing, heÃll stop whatever and chit chat with me.Ã®
BrownÃs father coached Spencer at Belle Glades Central before he went on to star at Florida and then the NFL. Unfortunately for Brown and his older brother Daniel, his father passed away from cancer before he could coach his own sons at the prep level.
Ã¬His dad was my high school coach, and he taught me a lot about football and life,Ã® Spencer said. Ã¬I felt like I owed him something back. Ã So, I took it upon myself not to take his place, but to steer his boys in the right direction.Ã®
Brown is certainly thankful that heÃs had Spencer in his life to provide a male role model after his father passed.
Ã¬By Jimmy just being there and having been through some things himself, he was able to talk to me and guide me through some things where I needed to be,Ã® Brown said. Ã¬You canÃt always go to your mother for some things. He was able to be there for me.Ã®
While BrownÃs dad was there for Spencer, Spencer has tried to take on some of the same responsibilities for Brown.
Ã¬His dad pushed me, even when I wanted to take a day off because I thought I was good,Ã® Spencer said. Ã¬I saw potential in them, and I wanted to put the same drive in his boys that his dad taught me.
Ã¬I love both of them, and they can come and stay over whenever they want,Ã® Spencer said. Ã¬I have an open house. TheyÃre like my own kids.Ã®
SpencerÃs open door policy has allowed the Bulls redshirt freshman corner to learn from a 12-year NFL veteran.
Ã¬By him playing defensive back, both of us playing the same position, heÃs able to talk to me and help me out with some things,Ã® Brown said.
For Brown, he spent this off-season at SpencerÃs home in Colorado getting a crash course in being a cornerback.
Ã¬This past off-season, he came from college, and we worked on press technique, which was hard for him,Ã® Spencer said. Ã¬We had a clinic in my backyard with my cousin who goes to college in Carolina. So we filmed it, and he learned how to play routes and different ways to set a receiver up.Ã®
SpencerÃs tutelage has seemed to light a spark under Brown. After a year spent observing from the sidelines as a redshirt, Brown distinguished himself early in spring practice.
The 5-foot-11, 175-pound Brown made quite the impression, enough to land himself a spot as one of the BullsÃ starting corners in the season opener against Florida Atlantic in his first game.
Ã¬My redshirt year, I thought I was going to come in and start playing like that,Ã® Brown said. Ã¬As I learned, everyone has a role on this team. My role was to come in and redshirt and work the offense.
Ã¬This year, I had the opportunity to get out there, and now IÃm playing. It was a learning experience my redshirt year, learning the plays, learning the defense. Paying attention and watching the older guys. That was my part, and now IÃm in the position where I have to step up now and get the job done once they call me to go in and play.Ã®
BrownÃs immediate success at USF isnÃt a shock to those who have followed his career from Belle Glades Central. In BrownÃs four years with the Raiders, Glades Central went to the state title game all four years, winning three championships.
The Raiders won 35 straight games to close BrownÃs career the fourth longest string in Florida high school history.
Ã¬The coaches, they pushed us hard,Ã® Brown said. Ã¬One of my coaches always preached in our ears, ÃPlay hard, win easy.Ã We worked hard on the practice field, and winning came easy. The best opponents we went up against were ourselves in practice.
Ã¬We worked hard. We played hard. When it was Friday night game time, we won easy.Ã®
On the field, everything seems to come easy for Brown as he attempts to follow SpencerÃs footsteps into the NFL.
Ã¬I see a lot of talent and potential in DÃJuan,Ã® Spencer said. Ã¬I just want to be the man in a young guyÃs life because every man needs somebody like that in their life.Ã®