Former NFL player Reggie “truck” Brown never thought his football career would lead to teaching
47 years ago, Riverside instructional assistant Reggie Brown watched the crowd go wild after Lydell Mitchell scored a touchdown in a 1972 Baltimore Ravens game, and said: “I want some of that.”
This began a football career that spanned from youth leagues to college and all the way to the NFL.
The first team Brown ever played on was his street team, because back then that’s all he had. The team was called the Bergen Street Blue Bombers, and he was the captain.
“That’s when I really started to enjoy the game of football and really get into it,” Brown said.
He then went on to play in high school for three years. During that time he hurt his back so seriously that he had to wear a brace and only played the last four games of his senior year.
Throughout Brown’s football career he had three major injuries to his shoulder, back, and ankle, but they didn’t stop him from earning a college scholarship. He attended The University of Oregon and from there was selected in the 1982 NFL draft by the Philadelphia Eagles.
Brown spent a total of six years playing professionally. After that he said that he was done and ready to retire.
Today he says he doesn’t miss it at all. Instead, he found his true dream: teaching. Brown began teaching while still playing, and he decided that was what he wanted to do.
“I just loved the response I got back from the kids,” says Brown.
He had to attend night school after retiring from football to get a teaching degree. Before joining Riverside, he taught at Weequahic High School in New Jersey and Malcolm X High School, also in New Jersey.
In addition to his classroom duties, Brown travels the country giving motivational speeches. Brown was hired at Riverside this past fall because of his reputation of working with special needs kids, and kids in general.
“He really connects with the students,” principal Tonya Williams said.
Assistant principal Chaundra Clay, who helped to hire Brown, believes that he has already impacted the community in a number of different ways. “He is reliable and approachable,” she said.
At Riverside Brown works as an instructional assistant, but also intends to help coach football next season in the fall.
“It will be a good opportunity to get back to the game,” Brown said. He is in contact with the team, and the players already call him the “OG.”
“He’s only gonna make us better,” said head coach Cory Lea.
Students and faculty alike describe him as caring, approachable and reliable.
“Whenever I went left with school, he would always help me get back on track,” said freshman Ariana Watson.
Students who don’t have him in class or play football can still get the chance to work with and meet Brown through the Special Gents Club. He, assistant principal Chaundra Clay and a variety of other teachers are organizing opportunities to mentor males of color.
“[We want] to make sure they are creating a brotherhood and a sense of belonging in this community,” said Clay.
The Special Gents Club organizers all hope that this club will help males of color with a diverse background.
“[We hope it will] transform their lives into something more positive,” said Clay.
The club will meet the second Wednesday of every month during lunch.