Just six days removed from a family tragedy, Journey Brown ran the ball with a greater purpose against Rutgers.
Brown’s 17-year old cousin died last Sunday, and he wasn’t far from the running back’s thoughts when he took the field on Saturday.
“That first touchdown, I knew I was playing for him today.” Brown said.
The sophomore running back racked up 103 yards and three touchdowns in the game, one of his best performances of his entire career.
“After the game I said ‘you made your cousin so proud, I’m so proud of you the way you played today,’” sophomore linebacker Micah Parsons said. “You know he kinda put the offense on his shoulders and made a lot of big runs, scored some crucial touchdowns.”
What led to this great performance was a tough week for Brown, but the running back found solace in his teammates and the sport he loves the most.
Brown turned to football as a way to escape, a method of coping and most importantly, a support system.
“Sunday after practice we knew Journey was going to go home and be with his family through that loss,” Parsons said. “He came right back Tuesday and said ‘I don’t want to miss a day with you guys, you guys are my second family, you guys help me get through everything.’”
The Meadville, Pennsylvania, native had unconditional support from his team throughout the week, so much so that Brown considers his teammates and coaches his second family in addition to the one he has at home.
Brown wanted to put on his best performance for both on Saturday.
“I have two families, I did it for my little cousin Paige and his immediate family, and I did it for the seniors and the Penn State family.” Brown said.
In his postgame press conference, James Franklin spoke about his running back’s great performance and his perseverance through the adversity he faced in his life, which is a great amount.
“In my 24 years I don’t think I’ve been around a kid who has overcome more adversity in his life than him — he had some more this past week,” Franklin said. “He’s a special, special kid, huge smile on his face, very appreciative of Penn State. He’s been phenomenal and I could not be more proud of him.”
Channeling his emotions into football isn’t all that new for Brown, sadly.
The running back has previously spoken about the death of his grandmother and how he plays for her.
“My grandma was hard but this one definitely hit different,” Brown said. “You grow from stuff like this, I’m just becoming the man I want to become.”
Overcoming adversity is something that Brown has dealt with on more than one occasion, and football has been the one constant as a way to move forward.
“I learned at a young age how to channel my emotions and put it to the right things,” Brown said. “I just took all the energy and put it in my game, that’s why every time I go out I wear my nana on my neck and have her tattooed on me… it just always channels into football because that’s my escape, that’s my getaway, it’s what I love to do.”
The past year has been a rollercoaster for Brown.
He’s dealt with two losses in his family while also going from backup to featured back on one of the nation’s premier programs.
Brown has now rushed for over 100 yards in four games this year and taken the spot as the Nittany Lions leading rusher for 2019 as the season comes to a close.
This regular season finale against the Scarlet Knights was just the exclamation point on what has been a breakthrough year for the sophomore.
But after the three touchdown performance Brown is thinking of others and the bigger picture of why he plays the game he loves in light of his cousin’s passing.
“It just gives me another why — Why do I love this game? Why do I want to do what I want to do? Why do I want to get up every morning and roll out of bed? Because those people would have done it for me,” Brown said. “When I roll out of bed I think about the people that are still here and I think about what I’ve got to do for my family up here at Penn State and then my family back at home…”
“I know they would do the same because they’ve sacrificed for me to get here to this point and the people that are here at Penn State are still sacrificing for me, for my position and what I’m doing now, so I’m always going to put on for the people, so that’s my why.”