Joe Brown played defensive tackle for Ohio State near the end of the John Cooper era. After graduating, signing a free agent contract and spending two years on and off the practice squad for the Seattle Seahawks, he joined the army and became an Army Ranger after leaving the NFL in 2003.
He served in the Iraq War, with determination of serving his country and then resuming his professional football career. A stairwell collapsing and a 30-foot drop while ordering an airstrike in Baghdad dashed his military service and hope for more time in the league.
The injuries were lasting.
The son of a brigadier general, Brown had set the goal of becoming a dual-involved athlete and soldier long before it happened. He told his third grade class he'd be a major league baseball player and an Army ranger.
A different sport but nonetheless he accomplished the goal for which he was laughed at, and he learned invaluable knowledge along the way.
But it wasn't the time he spent on Woody Hayes Drive that taught him the most, not even close.
"I learned more about myself and more about what selflessness and teamwork and duty means," Brown said. "What respect, honor, courage and personal integrity mean — ten times over than my takeaway from athletics."
"It doesn't even come close for me."
Also not coming close for Brown is the stigma that some programs have raised around war, and trying to equate it in motivational ways and video directors using it in hype videos. He just flat out doesn't agree with it.
"I understand what coaches are trying to do, but you cannot emulate war through sports," Brown explained. "One should desire though to teach young student athletes what selfless service is, understanding core values as they relate to your mission, even if your mission is playing on a team."
One can take the point to what Brown says regarding that debate. He draws the line clear in the sand and has the precedent and experience to do so.
Furthermore, in today's social media-frenzied world, Brown has an interesting take on what breeds this self-serving state in athletics: the very foundation, the athlete as an individual.
"One of the problems you see in athletics is that when you're an athlete, what're you focused on?" Brown rhetorically asked. "You focus on yourself. Me. You're creating a 'me machine.'"
"You’ve spent time since you were seven years old all the way if you’re fortunate enough to play collegiately and professionally. You’ve spent all that time focusing on me. We don’t spend a whole lot of time on 'how do I make the team better.'”
As Army comes into the Shoe Saturday afternoon, Brown thought about some of the things that cadets and soldiers go through alike. Adding being Div. 1 football players into the mix, he hopes it provides a takeaway for the eleven Buckeye warriors across the line.
"To watch Ohio State play Army is pretty neat," Brown said. "(I hope) that those young men that play for Army, play for West Point, and every day are breathing the Warrior Ethos, learning that stuff daily, that there might be some takeaway for our student athletes."