Tarell Brown, a star cornerback for the San Francisco 49ers, is no stranger to struggle. The native Texan lost his mother at 10 years old when she was shot and killed on her way to work. He lost his father to a heart attack just months before being drafted by the 49ers. While he is a star on the field, Tarell hasn’t let NFL success go to his head. Rather, he remains grounded by remembering his roots and focusing on giving back during his free time. When he’s not on the field or with his own two children, Tarell is busy engaging with the Mesquite community he was raised in. He says he feels a kinship with the underprivileged children of his hometown, and sees himself as a sort of surrogate father figure.
Each year the Brown’s Kids Foundation holds an annual football and cheer camp where local children meet players, learn about healthy habits and build friendships. In the spirit of Father’s Day and the upcoming 2013 Brown’s Kids Foundation Football and Cheer Camp, we caught up with Tarell (fresh out of practice) so he could tell us in his own words what his organization and being a father figure to underprivileged children means to him.
What’s your vision for the Brown’s Kids Foundation?
My biggest vision is just to help underprivileged kids. A lot of those kids are living in single parent homes. I know how that goes – coming up a certain way and not getting an opportunity to do what other kids with more opportunities maybe get to do. It’s just giving back and letting them know that your goals and dreams can come true as long as you stay focused and dedicated to whatever those are.
What do you hope the kids who participate in the yearly camps are able to take away from the experience?
The biggest thing is that the kids come out and meet players, but I also bring out a financial guy that talks about finances and learning how to save your money. I bring out a nutritionist that talks about eating right. I bring out a trainer that talks about training and fitness, and makes sure kids work and stay active and aren’t just being a couch potato. The biggest thing is having kids come out and realize that it’s not just about sports. You can learn communication skills. There are opportunities to talk to players, agents and nutritionists, and learn all the little tricks of the trade that a lot of people take for granted.
Have you built lasting relationships with any of the kids that participate in the camps?
I really have. I’ve had a lot of kids that have been there every year. I have kids that I remember from the first year. I still go back to my community and train and do stuff with the church. We try to stay active and help as many ways as possible – try to change a couple lives.
What would you say to a child who has dreams of making it big someday but doesn’t have a great support system?
The biggest thing I would say is to stay positive. Know that your goals are bigger than a lot of people’s dreams. Dream big and stay positive in what you’re trying to build. Nothing is perfect in life. Just like my situation. I relate a lot to my upbringing and things that I had to go through at a young age. If I can get through it, you can as well. All it takes is a strong person and the will to be better than those around you.
Do you think the loss of your own parents is what motivates you to be there for the children of your hometown community?
Most definitely. It puts things in perspective because just a few years ago I was in these guys’ shoes. I was having the same struggles and doubts. You can relate to a guy that’s really been through it. Some people’s life story doesn’t match up with what they’re preaching. My life story matches up with that and these kids know that.
How do you balance an NFL career with the community work you do on top of having your own family?
You just have to balance your schedule as much as you can but at the same time give yourself some getaway time. I have a great team behind me that supports me and helps a lot. They do a lot of things behind the scenes that help in so many ways.
How would you spend the perfect Father’s Day?
Just with my kids. Spending time with my kids and waking up with them … maybe cooking them breakfast. Just waking up with them is good enough for me.
To find out more about the Brown’s Kids Foundation, visit tarellbrown.com.
Published June 2013