The reach of Andrew J. Brown III extended well beyond the football field. Pylons and yardage markers were only jumping off points for the longtime middle and high school football coach. Brown was a friend, mentor, and inspiration to all who came in contact with him. To know him was to be pushed by him, and usually that pushing led to the realization of lifelong dreams.
Nothing made Brown prouder.
"I’m a prime example," said sister Nicole Brown, 50, of Brooklyn. "My brother pushed me to go back [to school] to become a nurse, and get my master’s degree. He’s pushing me to get my doctorate degree…I remember when he got his second degree at Stony Brook, he said to me ‘now it’s your turn to go back to school, to do more, to be more. You can do it. Whatever you want to do, you can achieve that.’ "
Andrew Brown, a Middle Island resident who taught physical education in the Central Islip school district for more than 20 years, died Feb. 7 from complications of sarcoidosis, an auto-immune disease, at Mather Hospital in Port Jefferson, his family said. He was 48.
"He used to tell me that I was a genius," said Nicole Brown. "He’d say, ‘you’re the genius of the family, you can do it.’ He believed that I could be more. Just as he inspired me, I’m sure he inspired other students in the neighborhood and in the community."
Andrew Brown loved a lot of things. He had an encyclopedic knowledge of Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, and comic books. He was a frequent traveler who was planning a trip to Brazil this summer and was a masterful cook who could fry a turkey and grill a steak with the best of them. But football always held a special place in his heart.
After playing for Central Islip High School in the late 1980s, Brown played linebacker at Delaware State. Years later, he would return to his high school stomping grounds, serving as an assistant varsity coach and head middle school and junior varsity coach. He was the first black head coach at Reed Middle School in Central Islip, Nicole Brown said.
As an assistant varsity coach, he oversaw the offensive line, where he coached future pros Malcolm Pridgeon and Andrew Tiller.
"He was like a father to me," said Pridgeon, whose spent time with the Houston Texans and Cleveland Browns. "Coming into middle school and playing for an organized school team, he was the first one to take me under his wing, take me to the weight room, and make sure I was in good shape."
Pridgeon continued: ""He was always by my side. He would pick me up from practice in high school, drop me off. If my family was struggling, he would give me school supplies and make sure I was set."
As Pridgeon moved on to Nassau CC and Ohio State before entering the NFL, Andrew Brown never stopped checking in on him and his family, Pridgeon said.
"When I was in college, he sent me a blanket, just to make me feel like I was at home," Pridgeon said. "He was one of a kind."
Said Nicole Brown: "His students were his kids. He took the success of his students personally. When Malcom Pridgeon went to Ohio State, my brother felt like that was his son going to Ohio State."
Born March 14,1972 in Brooklyn, Andrew Brown grew up in Central Islip. After graduating Delaware State with a degree in physical and health education in 1996, he began teaching in the New York City school system. In 1997, he got a teaching job in his home district, teaching children who were sharing many of the same experiences, Nicole Brown said.
"The kids looked up to him," said Joe Taormina, former football coach at Central Islip and Andrew Brown’s close friend. "They saw him go through [Central Islip], go to college, and make it. That would give them a little more reason to do the right thing."
Education was of immense value to Andrew Brown. He preached the values of a good education and practiced it too, earning two master’s degrees from Stony Brook University — one in education and another in education leadership, his sister said.
"We were taught that education is something that no one else can ever take away from you," Nicole Brown said. "Once you have received your education, that will help propel you and catapult you to get into a far better position in life."
Being able to bask in the success of his students and interact with them on a daily basis was exactly the position that Andrew Brown wanted to be in. Football player or not, he cared about those he taught, and the feeling was often mutual.
"He touched a lot of kid’s lives, and I’m not just talking about football players," Taormina said. "I’m talking about students from all backgrounds. Our community is very diverse and he was there for everyone."
In addition to his sister, Andrew Brown is survived by his parents, Andrew J. Brown Jr. and Gloria Brown of Central Islip. He was buried at Pinelawn Memorial Park and Arboretum in Farmingdale, Nicole Brown said.