What leads a professional football player in the prime of his career with a multi-year, multi-million dollar contract offer on the table to give up football entirely, and to instead start a farm that doesn’t turn a profit? This was the question on the minds of 50+ attendees as they overflowed the Study Center dining room on Monday, October 3rd to enjoy a family-style dinner and to hear from UNC alum and former NFL Center, Jason Brown.
The meal that evening will go down in Study Center lore. Friends of the Study Center (and accomplished chefs) Judy Hill, Sue Ellen Thompson and Dee McIntyre pulled out all the stops: honey glazed ham, baked sweet potatoes that had been gleaned from Jason Brown’s farm, green beans, sister Schubert rolls, and desert platters. Multiple students remarked, “this was just like having Thanksgiving Dinner here at UNC!”
After 40 minutes of dining and informal conversation, Jason Brown was introduced and proceeded to respond to the question that we’d all been eager to hear him answer. Jason spoke about how even though he was a Christian during his 7-year NFL career, the trappings and temptations of fantastic wealth, materialism, fame, and constant travel had an impact on him. He began to realize the effect these things were having on his walk with the Lord and on his marriage. As Jason prayed for discernment, he sensed God calling him to let go of his NFL career and to pursue a new, bold venture: starting a farm in Louisburg, NC, near his hometown of Henderson. Faithful to the call, Jason turned down several lucrative NFL contract offers and he, his wife Tay, and their growing family all moved back to NC to create what is today known as First Fruits Farm.
Jason’s story resonated tremendously with the students that evening. Although Jason, Tay and their children had to head out immediately after his talk, the night did not end with their departure. Several students stayed late into the evening discussing Jason's incredible story, what it means to obey God’s call, and what it might look like for their faith to shape their own respective vocations in a profound way.