Former Ohio State great Aaron Brown teaches a master class in patience

Lori Schmidt
The Columbus Dispatch
Aaron Brown won All-American honors during his senior season with Ohio State in 1977.

Aaron Brown is a tough man. Ohio State football opponents from 1974-77 found out just how tough at least 314 times.

That number of tackles ranks him No. 15 all-time at OSU. It earned him a spot as team captain and garnered him All-American honors his senior year. It also captured the attention of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who drafted the nose guard in 1978. 

Yes, Aaron Brown is a tough man, and one of the toughest things he's had to do is wait. 

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For 42 years, he hoped that he would receive a call from the Ohio State Athletics Hall of Fame. Teammates would call him from time to time to encourage him.

"Am I ever going to get in?" Brown admitted he wondered. "Maybe one day before the dirt nap, I'll get in." 

He made the observation just shortly before giving his induction speech.

It should be noted that the speech occurred in 2021, and Brown is a part of the 2020 class of Hall of Famers

Former Buckeyes nose guard Aaron Brown traveled from his home in Tampa, Florida, to be inducted into the Ohio State Athletics Hall of Fame.

As if the wait wasn't cruel enough, the pandemic delayed his ceremony for an another year. 

Still, waiting isn't the toughest thing Brown has ever done. No, that came after his 10-year professional playing career was over. 

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He had worked at an Anheuser-Busch factory in Tampa, Florida, where one of the perks was being able to occasionally taste the product. As part of a company restructuring, the plant closed, costing what the Tampa Bay Times called "375 of the best-paid skilled workers in Tampa" their jobs.

Or as Brown summed it up: "The money and beer were good, but there's not much you can do about it." 

He soon found other work. 

"Fortunately, at that time, they were looking for teachers, because they were kind of short on ESE teachers," Brown said. "So working with kids who were struggling, kind of fell into that particular area of education. 

"It grew on me, and I found that, before I knew it, it was 22 years of teaching in the ESE field."  

Being a special education teacher, it turned out, was his greatest challenge. It was harder than anything he had done on the field. 

"These are crisis situations," Brown said. "In football, everybody's out there. They know their job. They know what they have to do. It's about preparing yourself and getting ready for a game. In teaching, it's the game of life. And a lot of these kids were unfortunately struggling through the game of life.

"So I tried to encourage them, motivate them and let them know that there is an opportunity, but you have to work at it." 

Did any of his students recognize they were being taught by a former college football great? 

"Not really, because I'm not one to brag," said Brown.

It did happen a couple of times, though, that someone in his class would ask for an autograph. "There were ... people who looked me up," he conceded. 

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He retired about two years ago, but still gets up around 6 a.m. every day.

"Still working out," he said. "Living in Florida, blessed with good weather. That means I can get out and walk a little bit. Keep from blowing up to 400 pounds. That's basically it. My best friend, my wife, and I spend a lot of time together." 

Former Ohio State nose guard Aaron Brown speaks with OSU President Kristina M. Johnson and athletics director Gene Smith at the Buckeyes Hall of Fame banquet.

His wife was there when he cried upon hearing from the Hall of Fame. She was there when he gave his speech. So, incidentally, was Brown's friend from Northern Ohio in the early 70s, Buckeyes athletic director Gene Smith. 

They walked around the Covelli Center and quietly celebrated Brown's honor. 

And that is maybe one of the greatest lessons that the former nose guard could ever teach, that sometimes the wait is worth it. 

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