Sports is never bereft of inspiring stories.
Even though the late Thomas Herrion collapsed and died after the Lord's Prayer in a Mile High locker room in 2005, his example continues to inspire other players who have overcome the odds.
Because of poor grades, Herrion's chance at the big time seemed to have vanished when a Division 1 school didn't sign him. Yet Herrion never gave up on his dream.
Instead, he believed in himself, enrolled in a junior college, and was so successful in academics that he earned a spot on a Utah team led by Alex Smith. His college career led to a 49er roster spot.
To their credit, ’Niner owners John and Denise York established the award that is awarded each season to the 49er who best demonstrates Herrion's work ethic and perseverance in the face of adversity.
That brings us to Tarell Brown. Due to a season-ending knee injury to corner back Shawntae Spencer, Brown is stepping in as his replacement. Brown earned the Thomas Herrion Award last year because he has overcome adversity—some of it self-inflicted.
In college, as many players do, he got into trouble. It's not worth repeating because he didn't hurt anyone but himself and at the end of this young man's life, it will hopefully remain a faint bump on his road to success.
However, his oversight may be part of the reason he was selected as 147th in the fifth round of the 2007 draft, rather than in the first round as some observers expected.
That oversight, however, pales in comparison to the other adversity he has overcome.
His mother was murdered in a robbery attempt when Brown was only nine. Losing one’s mother is difficult at any age, as I can attest to, but at nine?
That’s not all. Brown’s father died of a heart attack shortly before the 49ers drafted him.
I’m sure they appreciate their son’s sentiment as they watch his success unfold from a world different than ours but not far removed. Let’s hope that this confident and evolving role model—who never stopped believing in himself—will continue to make them proud.
After all, it seems only fair, considering the tribulations Brown has survived.