COVINGTON, Ga. — Jamari Brown has come along way since June 11, 2016.
That’s the day he traded in the tropical sunshine of the Miami, Fla. area and the familiar surroundings of his smaller, but nearby hometown of Kendall for the red clay of Georgia and what his parents hoped would be a fresh set of opportunities for their teenage, football-playing son.
Actually Brown didn’t have much say-so in the matter. And the reason why he can remember the exact date he moved is because of the both immediate and eventual impact the change had on his life.
“My parents left first,” Brown said. “They moved May 25, 2016. I didn’t move until June 11 because they wanted me to finish out my freshman year of high school in Miami. It was a special date for me.”
Although he wouldn’t know exactly how special until enough time in Georgia passed by to transform foresight into hindsight. Brown, a junior wide receiver and defensive back at Eastside, took some time to wax reminiscent about his journey to Georgia football, just hours after securing his fourth Division I football offer, this one from Kent State.
Not bad for a kid who had zero offers and not much interest immediately following a solid junior season.
Beyond Kent State, he’s been offered by Navy, Ball State and Tennessee-Chattanooga. He’s also picking up heavy interest from Wake Forest, USF, UCF, Brown, Furman and Wingate.
The 5-foot-11, 175-pound athlete has a busy upcoming agenda with an invite to the Nike Opening on March 25, along with visits to Alabama A&M and Georgia State before the month is over
Brown’s just thankful to finally see that schools are warming up to his gridiron potential.
“Two weeks before I got that first offer from Navy, (Eastside) coach (Troy) Hoff called me into his office and told me to stay patient, and that my time is coming,” Brown said. “I think he knew that some of us were getting a little frustrated that things weren’t going as fast as we wanted them to go with recruiting. But then, two weeks after that talk, I got that offer from Navy.
“It feels good to get that monkey off your back with the first offer. So now I’m just trying to do what I can to get more.”
Brown has certainly shown enough in spurts to warrant the uptick in recruiting attention. He was the consummate versatile playmaker for Eastside last year, leading the team in receptions (23) and receiving yards (278) in a run-heavy offense. but he was third on the team in all-purpose yards, thanks to a combined 346 yards from kickoff and punt returns, which also led the team and he scored four total touchdowns.
Defensively he was a lock-down specialist at corner, registering five interceptions and six pass breakups. He also tallied two forced and recovered fumbles and a blocked field goal to go along with 45 tackles.
Impressive, but not satisfactory.
“All of this attention just pushes me to get even better because now I see that people are giving me opportunities to play for their school,” he said.
A large part of his ambition includes the work he’s doing in the classroom. The rising senior is carrying a 3.24 grade point average and recently scored a 20 on the ACT. It’s telling that when asked what he’s looking to improve upon most as he prepares for his last season of football, his first answers had nothing to do with anything on the field.
“My main focus is getting my grade point average up to about 3.3 or 3.4,” he said. “I feel like if I Get to that, I’m at a comfortable place.”
You can thank Brown’s mother for his scholastic tenacity. Brown said he looks to her whenever he wants some extra motivation to keep parallel his academic and athletic trajectory.
“The classroom is very important to me,” he said. “I’ve always looked up to my mother for that. She’s the only girl out of six kids, and the only child to end up going to college to finish her degree. I look up to that. In the society we live in, it’s harder for African Americans to be successful sometimes than others. So she’s always pushing me to be successful in life through academics. She once told me that someone can take my football career from me, but not my degree. That’s stuck with me.”
And now that he’s seeing the wisdom of his mother come to fruition, he’s more than happy to acknowledge that the difficulties of adjusting to a new life in a new state are definitely paying off.
“My parents wanted better for me,” he said. “When they left, I stayed in a house with my uncle and 11 other kids. We just had two beds. I knew after that I wanted to make sure to put myself in position to never be in that kind of situation.”
He’s in love with Covington, now. And he talks fondly of how he feels the city has taken to him.
“Being here in Georgia, and specifically in Covington, I feel like people here accept me for who I am,” he said. “In Miami, it was like if you’re not good in football you can’t hang around them. I wasn’t as good when I first came here as I am now, but people here accepted me for my character and like me for my personality, and not just football.”
Brown still has love for his home state and home city, however. And he’s thrilled that one of his dream schools — a Florida school — is showing some interest.
“USF is definitely my dream school right now,” he said. “One of their coaches, Coach Blue, left from West Virginia because he got a better deal at South Florida. He was recruiting me at West Virginia, so he stayed in contact at South Florida. He’s actually from the same town I’m from. I feel like he understands what I’ve been through, growing up as a kid. I visited there my freshman year and fell in love with the facilities, so I really hope I get that offer from them.”
Brown is far from a selfish, me-first player, though.
And as he charts out his goals for the last nine months of his high school football career, he’s trying to have the kind of success that makes coaches and scouts want to also take a look at the players that surround him.
“I don’t want it to be a thing where I get offers and forget about what the coaches and my teammates have done to help me be the player I’m becoming,” he said. “I don’t want to forget that I’m what I am because of them. I would love to have the kind of success that makes people recognize the other guys who step on the field with me to.
“I would love to see all the guys on my team get offers in academics or athletics so that everyone has a chance at accomplishing their dreams.”