ROME — As an old No. 3 on the Michigan defense watched the latest No. 3 tear it up in Italy, one bell kept ringing in his head:
Treasure this, Rashan Gary. Savor it, young man.
“To be able to come to Italy — we were already jealous enough when they went to (the) Jumpman (brand), so this just added on to it,” former Michigan S/LB Stevie Brown told Land of 10 said as he watched his alma mater complete spring drills in helmets and shorts some 4,600 miles from 1201 S. Main.
“If someone said I would’ve had the opportunity, if somebody would’ve told me if I could come to Michigan and I could’ve gone to Italy, I would’ve been like, ‘Nah, you’re lying.’ But it’s definitely a blessing for these players to be able to experience something like this.”
It’s also fun as hell, which means time flies while you’re having it. Brown, who’ll turn 30 in July, also told Land of 10 Thursday at the Olympic Training Center that he’s planning on filing retirement papers with the NFL and heading to culinary school.
“I’ve been cooking for as long as I can remember,” said the Wolverines’ 2009 team captain, who appeared in 55 NFL games from 2010-14 and was briefly a part of the Carolina Panthers during the tail end of the 2016 preseason. “And since I’ve been in the league, I’ve actually made a lot of good friends who are actually in the culinary world.”
He’s got friends all over the globe now, which prompted making the idea of a bucket list a reality this month: Four weeks traveling through Europe, starting with London and then working his way south.
So, you know, funny running into you here.
“It was definitely a happy accident,” laughed Brown, Michigan’s tackles leader in 2009 . “It was one of those things (where) I had planned this trip probably back in October.
“And I was on Instagram one day, and I follow U-M football and U-M athletics, and it popped up. ‘Oh, they’re going to Rome.’ And I was just like, ‘I’m jealous I didn’t get to [go to] Rome.’ And I looked at the dates and I pulled up my dates and I go, ‘Oh, I’m going be here for a couple of the same days they’re here.’ But yeah, it was definitely a happy accident that they ended up here.
“It’s just something that you wouldn’t think of. Whenever you’re planning a trip to come to Europe for a month, you don’t think you’re going to come and watch the practice of your alma mater.”
‘I played with guys who hadn’t even been on airplanes’
Looks good on the recruiting brochure, though, doesn’t it? Grabbed a winged helmet, soar to foreign lands.
“I was thinking about that actually this morning, when I woke up,” Brown said. “I wondered how many of these players, before they signed their letters of intent, knew that they were coming to Italy. Like maybe the freshmen that are early-entry, they probably knew, but everybody else, they didn’t know that. So the fact that they got here, that this is an opportunity to show recruits who are 16, 17, 18 years old or who haven’t really seen the world — I mean, I played with guys who hadn’t even been on airplanes whenever I came to Michigan. So now you get to be able to tell them, you get to get on a plane and fly, and you get to fly out of the country … definitely, you’re going to see more people come [here].”
‘You can cook but you’ve got to get a reputable degree behind you.’
— TV personality Guy Fieri to former Wolverines LB Stevie Brown
A former U.S. Army All-American out of Indiana, Brown’s best NFL season was a memorable run with the New York Giants in 2012. He made 11 starts, defended 11 passes, picked off 8 more and set a franchise single-season record with 307 interception return yards.
A torn ACL during the preseason the next summer wiped out his 2013 campaign, and the train started to sputter after that. Brown made just eight starts with the Giants in 2014 and spent the next two seasons bouncing from Houston; back to the Giants; to Kansas City; and to Carolina over the next two years, but didn’t crack the Week 1 regular-season roster at any of the four stops.
So life turns another page, and he’s looking to apply to the Culinary School of America (CIA) on the recommendation of restaurateur/television host Guy Fieri, whom he met during his time in New York.
“Honestly, I’m going to CIA because Guy is one of my good, close friends and you know, he was like, ‘You’ve got to go,’” Brown explained. “’Basically, because I didn’t grow up in kitchens, I didn’t work in kitchens, he’s like, ‘You can cook but you’ve got to get a reputable degree behind you.’ Like Michigan, basically. He said, ‘You went to Michigan for a reason.’ He’s like, ‘You need to go to the best school [for the culinary arts].’”
‘I’m not going to brag, but my college is kind of a big deal’
But first, there’s a European tour to stick a fork in. The ex-Wolverine defender’s road started in England a few weeks back, followed by Berlin; Amsterdam; Paris; Geneva; Rome; and then, on Friday, to Greece.
“The one thing that’s happened to me is, everywhere I go, I will purposely put on a Michigan shirt or my Michigan hoodie,” he laughed, “and I’ll run into somebody, an alum, at every single place that I’ve been to.”
In Geneva, he rang up an old friend from New York to show him around the Matterhorn region, and “literally, I was off the train for 5 minutes and I’m walking to the little village and I had my hoodie on, and this guy comes walking down with a maize Michigan hoodie on and he just walked up and just gives me a big hug.”
Which made his friend give a funny look.
“And she’s looking at me like, ‘You know him?’ I was just like, ‘No, but, you know, Michigan,’” he said. “They don’t really have college (sports) here, they have universities. So she thought this was like the weirdest thing ever. And then another person on the train yelled “GO BLUE” as we were walking back.
“And she says, ‘I’ve never seen anything like that.’ I was just like, ‘I’m not going to brag, but my college is kind of a big deal.’”
Kind of a global deal, too. Especially this week.