Jamal Brown's second visit to Western Michigan's campus was his best one. The class of 2015 defensive back out of Wendell Phillips Academy in Chicago left the Broncos' spring practice last weekend with a scholarship offer from head coach P.J. Fleck, the latest step in Brown's remarkable personal journey.
SI.com chronicled Brown and his Wendell Phillips' teammates last November as part of its "Underdogs" high school video series. In the video (above), Brown discussed his difficulties growing up on the South Side of Chicago. During Brown's sophomore year, his grandmother passed away, a setback that sent his life down a negative path.
"Drugs, guns, fighting all the time," Brown told SI.com. "[But] I knew I wasn't really that way."
Brown found his way to Wendell Phillips Academy and turned his life around both academically and athletically. Last weekend, he committed to Fleck and Western Michigan.
Underdogs: A series of inspiring stories in high school football
In an interview with SI.com on Thursday, Brown's head coach at Wendell Phillips, Troy McAllister, said his player broke down in tears when Fleck offered a scholarship.
"We've been able to see him progress as a young man," said McAllister, whom Brown described as a father figure. "He's had his setbacks, but we're big believers in two steps forward, one step back. With that, you're always moving forward. He's one of those kids who still makes mistakes and he still does some things that he wishes he'd do differently. But overall, he understands what he needs to do and how he needs to do things."
Brown reflected on his growth to SI.com on Thursday and looked ahead to his future.
"When I was sitting down talking to coach Fleck, it was kind of emotional," Brown said. "It's really big for me, since a year ago, I wasn't even in school. I didn't know where that would lead. I really don't have much of a family, but the family that I do have, they wouldn't be able to put me through college. It was a gift that [Western Michigan] gave me. They offered me and gave me a full scholarship to come to go to school. I'm thankful for it.
"It was helpful for me, and it showed me that I really have a bright future to do something with my life. I can change the past that's been going on with my family and be the first to go to college, graduate and get my degree."