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Journey Brown Talks Heart Condition, ‘New Identity’ In Sit-Down Interview

When James Franklin logged into a Zoom call for his routine post-practice press conference on November 11, it was immediately clear something was off.

“Like always, I appreciate you guys being on here and covering Penn State football. I do have something I wanna give you guys an update on,” Franklin said to open the availability. “Through internal testing and second opinions, Journey Brown will no longer be able to play football.”

Those were the words that officially ended running back Journey Brown’s football career. After a routine coronavirus test, doctors discovered Brown has hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a condition in which the heart muscle becomes abnormally thick. It would require him to be sidelined from competition for the rest of his life.

But after the diagnosis, he quickly embraced a coaching role and remained a key part of the Nittany Lions’ “brotherhood.” His positivity and infectious personality shined bright in a Penn State locker room working through a brutal start to the season.

After the dust settled, the senior was ready to speak publically about his “journey.” Brown sat down with Penn State Athletics’ Mitch Gerber in an interview released Thursday to talk about adjusting to life after playing football.

“If I were to die on a Penn State football field, what would that do to my team?” Brown said. “I didn’t want that to happen.”

After hearing from a doctor in Cleveland that he could drop dead if he were to continue playing football, Brown knew he needed to take their advice. The running back was told his condition is beyond just being a “red flag” — he truly has a serious case.

But Brown took the news just about as well as anyone could. He never said, “Why me?” or tried playing the victim. He’s been an active member of Penn State’s sideline, acting just as goofy and likable as he was before.

That doesn’t mean the situation has been easy for him, though. Brown said in the days after learning the news, he’d receive constant calls from Franklin, running backs coach Ja’Juan Seider, teammates, and family. Their support helped him through his darkest days, but he needed to do some soul searching himself.

“It’s definitely making me not re-evaluate myself, but re-find myself,” Brown said. “I made myself just Journey Brown and football. I know I’m more than a football player, I’ve known that my whole life. But for me, in my mind, I’m like, ‘Journey, this is you. You were made for this.'”

Since retiring, Brown said he’s been focused on finding the new version of himself. The old Journey was all football all the time, but things have changed. Outside of playing the game, he wants to discover what he is and what else he likes to do.

Brown graduates this year, but it’s unclear if he’ll stick around as a coach with the team or move on to something else. The new version of Journey, he says, is a teacher. He’s been through lots of loss and tough situations, but he’s managed to stay upbeat and positive through it all. Hopefully, he can pass that on to others.

“I’m actually excited to see what comes next for myself,” Brown said. “If it’s in coaching, or if it’s in my major (RPTM), they just better be ready for 100-percent effort and a regular-degular, goofy, cool-cat guy.”

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About the Author

Ryan Parsons

Ryan is a junior business major from Bucks County and is Onward State's social media manager. He writes about a lot of things. He's a huge Philly sports fan, back to back to back failed entrepreneur, and he appeared on the Rachel Ray Show at the age of 5. If you want to gain absolutely nothing, you can follow him on twitter @rjparsons9. Any "serious" inquiries or death threats can be sent to [email protected]

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