Keeping his word, Fadol Brown did his best to make Saturday feel like a real NFL camp.
“You don’t know where the ball’s gonna be,” Brown, a former star defensive end at Burke High, told a middle schooler as the kid reached to snag a pass. “You just have to be ready.”
It’s a safe bet Brown’s coaches with the Green Bay Packers aren't quite as nice.
But he was all smiles Saturday morning at Harmon Field in downtown Charleston where more than 200 boys and girls sported camp t-shirts and ran drills on the same field Brown used to play on as a kid.
Joining Brown was NFL running back Jalen Richards. Brown and Richards became close friends while playing for the Oakland Raiders.
“It was always his dream to do something like this for the kids,” said Brown's mother, Theresa Brown. “This is the first time I can remember a pro athlete having a camp in this neighborhood. But Fadol wouldn’t have it any other way.”
At 6-4, 280 pounds, the 26-year-old Brown has a lot of love for his community, evidenced by the free camp that came with several life lessons.
Brown credits his success in football and life to hard work and dedication – traits he developed at Burke and later at the University of Mississippi.
But his mother says it goes back further than that.
“From a kid, he just always wanted to be the best,” she said. “He’s always had that ‘no excuses’ kind of attitude, and just that hunger to prove himself.”
It would take that type of drive for her son to get a shot at the NFL. Fadol wasn't heavily recruited out of high school and spent his first year of college playing at Florida International University. The next year he transferred to Ole Miss.
Pounding the Packers
Brown was not selected in the 2016 NFL draft but signed with Oakland as a free agent and spent two years on the practice squad before finally breaking through and playing in eight games last season.
Green Bay coaches apparently liked what they saw, including Brown's performance against the Packers in a preseason game. In that game, he had three sacks, seven tackles, two quarterback hits and a forced fumble.
Green Bay claimed him off waivers in December and signed him to a one-year extension in March.
Brown said he'll never forget those first days in Green Bay.
“Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams, probably the two best players on the team, came over and introduced themselves. That was a shock since Aaron is known to be kind of a quiet guy,” he said.
‘Where we’re from’
Bringing it all back full circle, Brown is teaching some of what he’s learned to youngsters in Charleston.
His camp is for boys and girls, he said, because discipline, hard work and dedication aren’t tools exclusive to football or to one gender.
“We’re a small community here, and not a lot of people make it from where we’re from,” he said. “So I want to help everyone realize that they can make their dreams come true the way it happened for me.”
His message has already gained steam. Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg honored him with a key to the city earlier this year. Each year in the Holy City, Jan. 22 will forever be known as Fadol Brown Day.
Editor's note: A previous version of this story incorrectly reported that Theresa Brown was engaged to Walter Scott, who was shot and killed by a North Charleston police officer in 2015.