From NFL to UMC
Colin Brown first felt called to ministry around the age of 12. But like many 12-year-old boys, he also had the dream of being a professional athlete. With one of those goals firmly checked off the list, he’s now chasing after the other instead of running the away from it.
Growing up in Braymer, a town of 878 people, athletically minded kids ended up playing a little of everything. Brown played football through high school, but his real passion was basketball. “Basketball was just more fun,” Brown said.
Part of that fun might have been related to winning. Braymer’s basketball team dominated Brown’s junior and senior years, and as 6’ 7” high schooler, Brown was a big part of that. The Braymer football team – not so much.
The odds were against it, as the school was one of the smallest schools in the state to field an 11-man team.
“For most of us guys, football was just something to bide our time while we were waiting for basketball to come back around,” Brown said.
But despite his high school success, Brown didn’t find himself being courted by many schools with basketball scholarships. Sure, he had offers, but they were from smaller schools. He had a decision to make.
“I knew I’d stand a better chance of getting into the NFL from a Division 1 school like Mizzou than I would making to the NBA from Westminster,” Brown said.
So he decided to go for it, and packed his bags for Columbia. He didn’t have a scholarship, and only had enough money to scrape through one semester. But he impressed the coaches enough during football try-outs that he was awarded a scholarship in his first week. Other than the books he had already purchased on his own, the rest of his college was paid for.
Brown then started going through his transformation from a small town basketball star to a Division 1 football player. That meant a lot of time in a weight room. It also meant putting on 100 pounds, going from 230 to 330.
“Putting on the weight was easy, the trainers had to keep telling me to put the brakes on it,” Brown said. “I was lifting weights seriously for the first time, but a lot of my pounds were coming from the dollar menu at McDonalds.”
Brown was at MU at a good time. Every year he was there the team improved. He was able to be part of the Cotton Bowl victory over Arkansas in 2008. At the end of the college career, Brown’s agent told him he might get drafted in the sixth or seventh round of the NFL draft. Brown didn’t get his hopes up, and was looking for teams to sign with as a free agent if the draft didn’t go his way.
He was at his parents’ house shooting baskets when he got the call from the Kansas City Chiefs, that they had drafted him in the fifth round.
“It was incredible – I was going to be playing pro ball closer to home than I was when I was at MU,” Brown said.
“The texts started coming into my phone so fast I couldn’t read them. It was all a blur.”
It was during that year of playing for the Chiefs that he first was introduced to Woods Chapel UMC. He started dating Amy Brown (then Griffith), a long-time member of Woods Chapel, and the granddaughter of the late Rev. Earl Griffith, a Missouri Conference pastor. Brown started attending Woods Chapel with her.
“It felt natural to be here, and I really liked Jeff’s (Brinkman) sermons,” Brown said. “It was also nice to be in a church of this size, where it is so big there are all kinds of different interests and different people.”
After a year in Kansas City, he didn’t make the final cut and his next stop was playing for the Hartford Colonials in the UFL.
“I was afraid that might be the end of the line for me when comes to playing in the NFL,” he said.
But later that year he was picked up the Baltimore Ravens, and then was on to the Buffalo Bills.
“I left 60 degrees in Baltimore for two feet of snow in Buffalo, and that snow stayed there all season,” he said.
He was with the Bills until halfway through 2013.
“I feel really lucky to have been able to play in the pros as long as I did,” Brown said.
Coming back to Missouri, he was unsure of his next steps.
“I knew ministry was where I wanted to go, but wasn’t sure how fast I wanted to get there,” he said.
He took some classes at Calvary Theological School in Belton, which was recommended to him by a former pastor.
“I was kind of an unusual case, as I’d grown up in a Christian church in Braymer, was currently attending a United Methodist Church, and taking classes at a Baptist seminary,” Brown said.
It was around this time he had a meeting with Rev. Jeff Brinkman. Brinkman told him about the licensed local pastor track to ministry. Brown considered it, but decided that it wasn’t for him.
“I felt there was a lot to be learned in the classroom, and I wanted learn what I could if I was going to be a pastor,” Brown said. “I think it will pay dividends in the long run.”
When Brinkman has a member who is stepping up to fully explore God’s calling, he’s going to do what he can to assist.
“We immediately began to give Colin some opportunities to help around the church,” Brinkman said. “As an intern, we drug him into every meeting and group that we possibly could to immerse him in the life of the church.”
That included events like Missouri Annual Conference Session.
“I didn’t even know there was an Annual Conference,” Brown said.
Brown is currently leading the preliminary worship pieces at the Blue Springs campus and preaches on occasion. He’s considered whether he is more nervous about preaching or playing a big football game. He’s discovered that the big difference is with football, once the game started he was in the zone and totally focused, and all the nervousness went away.
“With preaching, you’re still nervous as long as you’re up there preaching,” he said.
Never easy on himself, Brown doesn’t claim to be a natural.
“I’ve got a long ways to go, but it’s getting better,” he said.
Brown is currently in seminary at Saint Paul School of Theology on campus at the Church of the Resurrection. This spring he will be in class and working with Woods Chapel on events leading up to a new campus in Blue Springs that is expected to launch August 21.
“He has been a wonderful addition to our church and to our staff,” Brinkman said. “Colin has a great future in the United Methodist Church. He is a big man with an even bigger heart.”