A letter to the Editor,
I hope this letter finds you and your readers well, my name is Fred DeFinis, I am born and raised in your neighboring town, West Orange. When I heard the news that my very dear friend, Bobby Brown was running for South Orange Board of Trustees, I felt it was my calling to let you and your readers know my interaction with him.
I met Bobby in the Winter of 2002, I just completed my first semester of college at Montclair State University, was a member of the football team and a political science major. That off season I was training at a sports performance facility in Randolph, to prepare for my Sophomore year on the field, we were outside in the cold doing a drill called one on ones, with other college football players and there showed up Mr. Bobby Brown himself.
I believe at the time he was with the Browns, he was beyond engaging, just acted as one of the guys trying to perfect his craft. My dream was to always play football in the NFL, that was the fist time I was ever around someone who possessed that level of football ability. Every move he made was for a purpose, the smallest most intricate detail in his training, he paid close attention to, the little things, his first step out of his break, in between drills catching tennis balls, the quest for flawless repetition, his route tree, everything had to be just right. I tried my best to model his work ethic and attention to detail and asked a multitude of questions when I had the chance. I guess that’s what it takes to play and succeed on and off of the field as a student athlete at Notre Dame.
The conversations we had were nothing like I thought, I honestly remember it like it was yesterday. I was asking him about what it was like playing in the NFL and sadly what the parties were like. He responded by asking me what my major was, what my GPA was, what was my game plan after college, he took on the role pretty early of mentor to me.
He sat me down and told me, “The NFL is made up of 53 CEOs. As a business owner, what are you doing to advance your business, what networking events do you attend, who are you trying to learn from to gain more knowledge, what 5 year strategy do you have in place?” He began to give me these statistics about the number of NFL players who lost all of their money for one reason or another, this was back in 2002 he was telling me this, way before ESPN did the 30 for 30 on it.
He said he wanted to change the culture of the NFL, give players the tools necessary to not become a statistic and when he was done with the NFL his plan was to attend law school. Bobby and I remained in contact for a period of time, he went off to Law School and I was busy earning my degree and playing ball at Montclair.
I graduated in 2006. I could be wrong of the exact year, but I believe sometime in ’07, I was at a political event in West Orange with my mother and sister. I didn’t see Bobby since 2002 but I saw someone who looked just like him. I went up to this man who resembled Bobby; it was all smiles and we gave each other a big hug, sat down and started talking.
That was the first time I met his wife and it was as if I saw him the day before. He was now a lawyer and living full time in NJ (South Orange) I graduated and was living in West Orange, working for a sports marketing firm in NYC. After the event was over we exchanged numbers and met up the next week, that’s essentially when we formed our own sports agency, our mission was to change the culture, educate the NFL, provide platforms of opportunities for them to further their education, turn their hobbies into a business, intern with various institutions. The goal was to have them in a place to succeed when their days in the NFL were over.
I cannot put into words how much I have learned from Bobby from a professional standpoint, he helped me grow leaps and bounds, his ability to interact with professional athletes while being able to have “business conversations” mapping out a plan that would help them obtain all of their goals, putting that plan into play with a detailed, analytical approach, far supersedes my creative mind or lack thereof.
Everything Bobby did had numbers attached to it. Here is an example: we represented a safety out of Montclair State University. Typically (with the exception of Sam Mills) you don’t see football players from Montclair go to the NFL, but when Bobby saw this kid play, he had to meet him. His name was Chad Faulcon. Upon meeting him, Chad decided to sign with Bobby as his NFLPA sport agent. The approach was to create an online marketing campaign around Chad, after all he was not a Division 1 football player, none of the NFL teams ever heard of himln’5he mission was to change that, but how? Bobby’s plan was to have Chad go viral, through Bobby’s perseverance ( I say perseverance because I cannot count how many unanswered emails and voice mails that were left with no response). Bobby was able to eventually get him a few big interviews that had over 1 million clicks, which then led to Bobby convincing the College Football All Star Classic to invite Chad Faulcon (the only d3 football player) to participate in the game, which lead to now Bobby being able to petition all of the scouts and front office personal to take a look at the film, while in attendance at the NFL Combine.
His plan was working, he went viral, Bobby created enough buzz to have teams interested, he was able to have relevant convos with decision makers. Next came the NFL draft, there were 5 teams who showed real interest in him, we met up during the draft waiting anxiously and Bobby pulls out his computer, he created an excel spreadsheet which had a draft predictability roadmap of who most likely would take them. He pulled the information from historic drafts, of teams who have selected a player from a non power conference, to division 2 and division 3, then he looked at those teams to see when the last time they did indeed take a smaller school player and broke it down by position, followed by which teams had a need for a defensive back and which teams we were speaking to. He essentially had a plan A, B, C, D, which turned out to be accurate as crazy as that sounds. Soon as the draft ended Chad was signed by the Falcons, we have represented a decent number of guys who went on to sign an NFL contract, but this was the most well thought out successful campaign and I had a front row seat.
Personally, even more important is the brotherhood that was formed, a bond, I call him my brother and I mean it. I don’t have a biological brother, but if I did, I would hope it would have been someone like Bobby. So intelligent, the ultimate family man, pure go getter, big personality, can lighten up the room with his smile, he has accomplished so much that it’s kind of contagious, meaning being around him makes me want to up my game. I would not be where I am at holding the position of Vice President of the NJ Region for one of the larger Insurance Brokerage Firms in this Country if it wasn’t for the tutelage of Bobby Brown. I can remember he was working full time in the city, while we had our side business sports agency, while commuting back and forth from Connecticut to obtain his MBA from Yale, while taking care of his pregnant wife and succeeding on all fronts. Bobby was always a voice if I was down, needed guidance, advice, a bro hug, a laugh. My family loves him; my Dad and Bobby became pals.
I remember when Bobby’s mother was diagnosed with cancer, he was an absolute rock during that time, he would not let himself fall into the depression that comes with hearing a parent has been diagnosed with this horrible disease, he relied on his faith, his family and kept a positive attitude, seeing how he handled this situation would help me years later.
Bobby is very good with his words, but he is as equally as good with how he rationalizes things, I have been the beneficiary to his wise words on many occasions regarding my personal and professional life. Seeing Bobby’s positive outlook during this time was an inspiration, after his mom passed from a long hard-fought battle, the manner in which he conducted himself is something sadly I wasn’t able to do when my father passed away this past Sept.
But, what I had in my corner was Bobby, every time I called, he answered, he was there during this journey in a big way, he’s who I called from the ICU, when I just couldn’t handle seeing what I was seeing, I would say about 30 mins before my father passed from kidney cancer, sitting in the ICU, looking at him, I just needed an escape, walked out of the room, I think he (Bobby) was away on a business conference, he walked out and he just spoke to me, he helped me tremendously and continues to do so.
I just felt compelled to write you this, if you elect him, this is the kind of man you will be getting, Bobby is the ultimate Builder of Bridges, some towns should be so lucky and if there were more people like Bobby running for office, I believe there wouldn’t be so much political discourse in this country.
All the best,
Frederick M. DeFinis