ST. LOUIS — His family’s church was too small for the crowd that came to say goodbye to Dallas Cowboys practice squad player Jerry Brown Jr. on Saturday.
More than 1,000 mourners crowded into Hopewell Baptist Church, including friends, family and professional football players. Among them was Hayworth Hicks, an offensive guard from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“I was there the day he got called to get to the active roster,” Hicks said. “I was probably more excited than he was. He said ‘All right, it’s time to play.’”
But less than two months after the Dallas Cowboys summoned Brown, the 25-year-old athlete was dead. He lost his life last Saturday on a predawn drive with his best friend and teammate, Josh Brent, who overturned his Mercedes in Irving.
Neither man was wearing a seat belt, according to Stacey Jackson, Brown’s mother.
Brent now faces one charge of intoxication manslaughter for drinking and driving.
“I’d just encourage anybody that drinking and driving is bad,” Hicks said. “Call or cab or something, please. It’s not worth it.”
Brown’s pastor delivered that same message.
“At some funerals, people kind of steer away from what could become controversial,” said Reggie Jones, Brown’s friend. “But today, I kind of think he hit it head-on, and talked about the dangerous aspects of drinking and driving.”
Still, loved ones shared stories.Tony Bush was Brown’s little league coach in the Boys & Girls Club.
“I can recall one time we won a game 48-0, and he didn’t run the ball enough, and was crying over that,” Bush said.
Competition drove Brown in the NFL, too. But in his working-class neighborhood in South St. Louis, he’ll always be remembered as the kid who made it.
Josh Brent did not attend Saturday's funeral. Brown’s family said no one from the Cowboys came either, since the team held its own memorial in Dallas earlier in the week.