Photos by Anthony Spaulding, Director of Communications/Pope John XXIII Regional High School — ABOVE: Pope John XXIII Regional High School senior linebacker Jake Brown, center, poses for a picture with Pope John Vice President for Institutional Advancement Craig Austin and Pope John Head Football Coach Brian Carlson in front of the Biondo Research Center on Monday. Brown decided on Tuesday to commit to Harvard University to continue his academic and football careers. BELOW: Brown lines up for a play during a game against Delbarton on Sept. 23 at Pope John.
By ANTHONY SPAULDING
Director of Communications
Pope John XXIII Regional High School
SPARTA — Whether he makes a tackle, studies for a big test or helps someone out, Jake Brown wears everything on his sleeve and gives everything his all.
“I just put it all out there,” the Pope John XXIII Regional High School senior linebacker said. “I’ve always tried to be the best person I could be.”
By doing so, Brown has put himself in the best position possible to succeed on the field and in life, as he has committed to Harvard University to play football and continue his academic endeavors for the Crimson.
“It’s a great feeling,” Brown said. “A lot of hard work has been put into this decision. A lot of people have helped me along the way. I have to thank my parents, my family, (Pope John head coach Brian) Carlson, Father McHugh, the school, my teammates and my coaches for helping me get to where I am now.”
Brown chose Harvard from a pool of schools that included the seven other Ivy League schools — Brown University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University and Yale University — plus Army, the University of Maryland, Rutgers University and Colgate University. Maryland and Rutgers offered the 6-foot-1, 215-pound linebacker preferred walk-on spots for their football teams, and UPenn had offered him a chance to play football and wrestle for the school.
However, Brown believed Harvard was the right spot for him ever since the school, which is arguably the best academic institution in the world, contacted him after his junior season.
“I just felt the most at home at Harvard,” Brown said. “I was speechless at first when they reached out to me. They were the first school to give me that opportunity to play at the next level and they believed in me.
“I’m loyal and I took that to heart.”
Brown caught the Crimson’s eyes after being a key cog in Pope John’s defense over the last three years.
As a sophomore, Brown led the Lions with 99 tackles, five sacks, three interceptions, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. As a junior, he missed a few games due to injury, but was able to come back and help the team reach the Non-Public, Group 3 semifinals.
This season, Brown was superb while being the emotional leader for a team that went 6-4 and made it back to the Non-Public, Group 3 semifinals. Brown made 101 tackles, forced a team-high four fumbles, had two sacks and an interception.
While his accomplishments on the field were tremendous, Coach Carlson said Brown has molded himself into the model student-athlete. After all, Brown has excelled while taking a mix of AP and honors courses plus has made time to volunteer as a youth football coach and a member of Pope John’s Stand Against Bullying club.
“Jake has been the perfect example of what we want our players in our program to be,” Carlson said. “He’s intelligent and athletic. He is one of our best kids in the classroom, on the field and off the field. He is a person that can accomplish anything he puts his mind to at the next level.”
Brown attributed his personality and approach to all aspects of life to his parents, Philip and Monique.
“My Mom and Dad have been pushing me in the right direction the whole way,” Brown said. “They’ve pushed me to be the best student-athlete I could be.”
In addition, he believed Pope John has been instrumental in his development as a person and player.
“Father McHugh, Coach Carlson and the teachers have been great to me,” Brown said. “They have shaped me into who I am today. I couldn’t thank them enough.”
Brown says his goal for next year is to earn some playing time at Harvard, and he hopes to make an impact on the team. He also wants to make an impact on the school, possibly concentrating on economics after developing an interest in the business field recently.
No matter what he does, Brown will always be giving it his all.
“I want to give it a shot,” Brown said. “I want to light it up in the Ivy League. I am going to put it all on the line and just keep moving forward.”