Cowboys pay respects with courage

DALLAS -- The cars started rolling into the parking lot of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship around noon Tuesday for Jerry Brown's memorial service.

One by one, Dallas Cowboys players were looking to make sure they pulled into the correct parking lot of the massive church complex.

Some walked in alone, some with wives or significant others. Then around 12:18 p.m. CT a black passenger van pulled up. It stopped in the left turn lane as photographers from across the street snapped pictures and television cameras rolled.

The packed van made the turn and was met at the entrance by two guards. After the driver said a few words, the van was let through a barricade.

In the backseat was nose tackle Josh Brent. When he got out, he was wearing a white shirt, his right hand covered in a bandage. He had white spots dotted in his hair and he held the hand of the mother who has lost a son.

Brent's mistake was a tragic one. He has been charged with intoxication manslaughter in connection with the death of Brown, a Cowboys practice squad linebacker.

Brent and Brown were best friends. They were roommates when they played football at Illinois. They became roommates again when Brown signed with the practice squad.

But the incredible forgiveness of Brown's mother, Stacey Jackson, and the courage by the Cowboys organization has brought Brent here to honor his friend.

Most of us know about Brent, who is in his third NFL season. But what about Brown?

He was honored here in a nearly hourlong private ceremony, closed to the media and general public.

"Jerry was a sweetheart, a sweetheart," said Cora Daniel, whose granddaughter, Leslie Hernandez, was engaged to Brown. "I can't say anything bad, and I'm a pretty good judge of character. Jerry was one of the nicest young men you could meet."

Brown loved Daniel's peach cobbler. After family outings at the Daniel house, Brown and Leslie would wash dishes together.

"It was like you're in a movie," Daniel said of watching her granddaughter and Brown. "I was so blessed. It was like a family."

Even though Brown loved his own mother dearly, he would phone Daniel and say, "Am I still your son?"

"You'll always still be my son," she recalled telling him.

"The first time I met Jerry I knew he came from a good family," Daniel said. "His mother was his biggest fan. You would think that was his big sister."

Brown had a soft and kind personality. He was beloved by Daniel's sons, who monitored his goals of reaching the NFL. When Brown, who was with the Indianapolis Colts at the time, indicated on Facebook in October that he would play in an NFL game, the family celebrated as if they were suiting up.

"Jerry was one of the nicest young men you could meet," Daniel said. "We didn't think he could make football because he was so tender-hearted. You find some guys that are rough and tough; Jerry wasn't a rough-and-tough type of guy. He was very nice, very nice. Humbled. I can't put it any plainer; he was a humble young man, very respectful. Everybody in my family who met him, loved him, and we have a big family and they all just loved Jerry."

At the end of the service, the cars pulled away and two buses carrying more players departed through a back entry way. Red and white roses were tucked into the back of an SUV. Brent jumped into the same car with Jackson.

Jerry Jones, the Cowboys' owner, got into a car without speaking to the media. A man from the church left holding a game ball and a hard hat given to one of the hardest working Cowboys in a game. The items were presented to Brown's family during the ceremony.

There was a postcard handed out to those who attended the ceremony, and it spoke volumes of how the Cowboys felt about Brown.

The front has DeMarcus Ware, the Cowboys' best defensive player, running off the field in Cincinnati carrying Brown's jersey.

On the bottom it reads: "Rest in Peace Jerry Brown Jr.

The back of the card, after roughly two paragraphs describing Brown's career, reads: "The world is a poorer place without Jerry Brown Jr., but it will always be a richer place because he was once in it. He will live in our memories forever."