For the past two weeks, Bradwell Institute senior offensive lineman Chester Brown has been on an emotional roller-coaster ride. On Wednesday morning, the ride finally came to a screeching halt and Brown was smiling once again after he signed a letter of intent to play football at the University of Central Florida.
Brown always has been a Georgia Bulldog at heart. After impressing the UGA football staff at last summer’s Dawg Night, Brown was offered a scholarship and verbally committed to the Bulldogs in July. He was so overjoyed that he had the date of his commitment tattooed on his left forearm.
About two weeks ago, Brown had to de-commit from UGA after learning that a new Board of Regents policy on undocumented students would keep him from attending UGA. Brown, born Keka Alofa Brown, is the son of Samoan immigrants. But what could’ve been the end of his career turned into new opportunities.
“We had over 29 schools, some of the nation’s top schools — Southern Cal, Ohio State, North Carolina, Florida State, Auburn, Missouri, Indiana, Illinois, Tulane, SMU, Houston — just a lot of schools called or came by and were very interested,” Bradwell football coach Jim Walsh said.
Brown said that he tried to stay strong for his family despite the pain, but he realized he needed to move on and believes that everything happens for a reason.
“I believe, and although it’s hard … what happened with Georgia gave me more options, and God had a plan for me the whole time,” Brown said. “God wouldn’t take me this far just to leave me. … There was always a reason for me, and there was always something planned for my life.”
“The thing that was impressive through the whole process is how Chester kept his composure,” Walsh said. “We tried to talk to as many of these schools as we could and tried to let him talk to as many of these schools as possible so he could make a good decision, especially after what happened with Georgia.”
After conversations with his coach and family, Brown made an official visit to UCF.
“When I first went there, I went with an open mind for everything,” he said. “I’m not going to rush into anything, and they aren’t going to force me into doing anything I don’t want to do.
“But when I got there, I just fell in love with the whole program, especially the education programs and coaches. I feel real good about it. I feel like this is the school I can play at for the next four years. I feel like this is the school that can help me through life.”
And perhaps everything does happen for a reason.
“I was scouted as an offensive guard, but when I got there, coach (George) O’Leary told me, based on my 40 and the way they’ve seen me move, they say I’m too quick to be playing offense. So when I go to Central Florida, they want to put me at defensive tackle,” Brown said. “I’m very excited to be playing defensive tackle. To be honest, when I first started playing in ninth grade, that is where I really wanted to play at. … I’m pretty happy to be playing defensive tackle in college.”
“He still has a lot of work ahead, but I think the way he conducted himself through this whole situation shows he is ready to take on whatever he needs to get the job done,” Walsh said. “I’m proud of him for the way he has handled it.”
Brown joked that he would keep the UGA tattoo, but it is time to add a Knight tattoo.
“I’m just glad that it is over with,” Brown said. “UCF is getting a hard-working athlete that strives to be the best. Even though I’ve only been playing for four years, they always tell me I have raw talent, so I am really ready to experience how good I can be.”
I really want to be the best in every play.”