Sept. 27, 2010
By Matt Winkeljohn
It’s a good bet that you didn’t expect to learn anything about Britney Spears in Sting Daily, but today you’re in for a treat – whether you consider Spears special or not.
Monday, it was an honor to reach former Georgia Tech star Chris Brown by phone in Los Angeles, where even though he hasn’t put on football pads in years, he’s still blocking. He’s become quite a story teller, too, in large measure because he’s large and his unique line of work – as a high-level body guard – provides material.
Can you guess where this is going?
First, the reason for the call: Brown on Oct. 15 will be one of six former Yellow Jacket athletes inducted in the school’s athletic Hall of Fame. He played at Tech from 1997-2000, starting on the `98 squad that shared an ACC title. He and his teammates also logged three straight wins over Georgia.
We’ll get back to that stuff.
After Brown’s NFL aspirations were interrupted by a lengthy list of injuries that short-circuited a couple shots with the Chicago Bears, he played in NFL Europe for a while and kept returning to Los Angeles, even though his initial forays to the West Coast with a former girlfriend did not produce rave reviews.
“It’s expensive, and I didn’t speak Spanish,” he said. “But the more I was away, the more I wanted to come back. LA started growing on me. I got a friend or two. Now, it’s all I know. I can’t imagine being anywhere else.”
In about seven years in Los Angeles, Brown’s traveled a long way from his days at Augusta’s Butler High and Tech, and this is about more than miles covered.
Most of his work now involves safeguarding company executives, chiefly a certain un-named CEO. That’s a bit ironic since he’d more than once had more than enough of the profession than he wanted.
“I had gotten out of the body guard business, and I had gotten into the mortgage business, and it was sliding downhill,” Brown said. “A friend called one day and said, “We need your expertise [with Spears]. I said, `Dude, she just cut all her hair off.’ He said, `Come help. We’ll pay you well.’ ” Brown was hired just as the human hurricane known as Britney Spears reached Category 5. There was all the fuss about her shortcomings as a parent, a driver, a diva . . .
While the job was indeed lucrative, it was everything else you’d expect.
Brown is not married, and he has no kids. He has, however, played the role of parent.
“I’d worked with celebrities before [including Dr. Dre]. That first day there was like 30-40 paparazzi,” he recalled. “I was like, OK, it’s like football; it hurts, but it pays well and it ain’t that bad. Just make a hole.”
“It became a parental thing because she had cut everyone off her life; no parents, anybody who had good advice she just booted. It was just me, and I’d tell her this is how it works. I had to live with her five days a week. I was like the live-in nanny, butler, body guard. It became too much. My hair line started receding, it was too much.”
Fortunately, Brown’s tour of duty was not indefinite, and another call came.
A friend offered work in the line of executive protection. Brown got out of celebrity protection.
“It was taking a toll on my relationships with my family, my friends, girlfriend. I couldn’t communicate with them because I was always grumpy. The call came at a crucial time.”
By contrast, when word came that Brown was to be inducted into the Tech Hall of Fame, he was immediately honored, yet it took a while to sink in and mean even more.
“I was just thinking about this last night. When I got the phone call, I was reading the paper on the couch, and I was like, `That’s nice,'” he said. “The more I thought about it, and people started talked to people — parents and friends . . . I had so sit back and think about it. I started thinking about all the people in the Hall before me, like [former teammate] Joe Ham[ilton], it became a bigger deal.”
Reading the paper on the couch is old school. So is Brown. He was a big, physical player, a four-year starter who was All-ACC in 2000, when he was also a co-captain.
Ask him his foremost memories from his Tech playing days, and you get more old school.
“One of my favorite things I always like to reflect on was my first game as starter in 1997 against Notre Dame,” he said. “I remember the emotions that ran through me. My sidekick was Brent Key. He played right guard, and I played right tackle. We were both playing on the scout team the year before, and we had been through a lot together.
“In the locker room, we were emotional, banging our heads on lockers. We went out there and started lighting people up. If it was moving, we were knocking it down. Then, we got the worst grades of everybody, and we lost.
“We lost to Georgia that year, but we won the next three, and that [51-48] overtime win in 1999 was unreal. Then, when Virginia was No. 6, we came back to win at home [in 1998].”
Brown stays in touch with several former teammates, including Key (another four-year starter from ’97-2000 and All-ACC selection in 2000) and former teammate and Tech quarterback George Godsey.
They work under coach George O’Leary, for whom they all played at Tech, at Central Florida. Key is the offensive line coach and Godsey the running backs coach at UCF.
Another former teammate and friend of Browns, former Tech running back Sean Gregory, is changing professions and is now a graduate student on the staff at Central Florida, where former Tech assistants Dave Huxtable, Charlie Taafe and David Kelly also work.
Coincidentally, Gregory rushed for 150 yards and two touchdowns when Tech beat Central Florida in 1999, when Brown was at left tackle.
“I talk to Brent Key a lot, and Godsey and Gregory,” Brown said. “We usually do a trip to Las Vegas in July and sometimes we get together for birthdays.”
Those road trips Brown can handle. The celebrity thing, though, grew old.
“It was a lot of traveling and drinking and all that,” he said. “I’m looking forward to coming to Atlanta, though. I only get to see my parents once or twice a year, and my mom does not like to fly so that will be nice. And I sent out the invite to a couple teammates I played with although Brent and George and Sean and those guys have a game that weekend.”
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