Indianapolis Colts senior director of communications Avis Roper recalled 25-year-old Dallas Cowboys linebacker Jerry Brown as a hard-working, caring player who embraced his commitment to the Indianapolis Colts and the community as an undrafted rookie out of Illinois.
COWBOYS TRAGEDY: Josh Brent arrested after crash kills teammate
BRENNAN: NFL struggling through dark days
"He was a great kid, a really nice kid,'' Roper told USA TODAY Sports on Saturday after Brown was killed early Saturday morning when a car driven by Cowboys teammate Josh Brent left the road and flipped several times in Irving, Texas.
"Jerry spent the whole offseason with us. He was a regular part of our rookie class, with (quarterback) Andrew Luck and (tight end) Coby Fleener," Roper said. "We had a number of different charity events, and Jerry was always a willing participant when we introduced players to the city, including at Riley's Children's Hospital.''
Brown, a practice-squad linebacker, was killed when the 2007 Mercedes S60 driven by Brent flipped on Highway 114 at 2:21 a.m., police said -- one week after Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher shot and killed his girlfriend, then drove to the Chiefs facility and committed suicide.
Responding officers believed alcohol to be a contributing factor. Police said Brent did not pass sobriety tests and underwent a mandatory blood draw at a nearby hospital. Brent was arrested on charges of intoxication manslaughter, Irving police spokesman John Argumaniz said. Police have not yet determined if Brent or Brown were wearing seat belts, Argumaniz said
In a statement released by the team, Colts general manager Ryan Grigson said of Brown:
"On behalf of the entire Colts family, our sincerest condolences go out to Jerry's family and friends. He was a good teammate that was well liked by all. Today's tragic news is just another reminder of how fragile life is and how every day given is a gift.''
Brown was a member of the Cowboys practice squad, signing with the team in October, following his release by the Colts. He appeared in one game for Indianapolis, according to nfl.com.
"It's tragic,'' Dallas Cowboys director of player programs Calvin Hill told USA TODAY Sports. "A life ended too quickly.''
Brown and Brent played together at Illinois from 2007-2009.
Coming out of high school, Brown chose Illinois over offers from his in-state program, Missouri, as well as Oklahoma, Nebraska, Louisville and Michigan State, according to the recruiting site Rivals.com.
After redshirting as a true freshman, Brown played in 13 games and had 2 ½ sacks during Illinois' surprising run to the 2007 Rose Bowl. A year later, he played in 11 games but made only four tackles, ceding his spot in the Illini's defensive line rotation.
The St. Louis native had a superb spring game in 2009, making a game-high seven tackles and two sacks, perhaps pointing to a breakout season. But he had "serious academic problems,'' then-Illiniois coach Ron Zook said that summer. While Zook hoped Brown could return to the program, Brown never played another down for the Illini.
Brown initially signed with the Arena Football League's Jacksonville Sharks in 2011 and was a contributor to the Sharks' victory in Arena Bowl XXIV with one tackle, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
He previously played for the Hamilton Tiger Cats of the Canadian Football League and the San Antonio Talons of the AFL.
Said NFL.com analyst Gil Brandt, "Jerry Brown was a good size/speed guy for the linebacker position at 6-4, 253. He's one of those guys you take a chance on to develop on the practice squad.''