Journey Brown, a former Penn State University football player whose promising career was cut short due to a heart condition, has not allowed his dreams to be sidelined. Instead, he redirected his passion and determination to NASCAR, where he now serves as the front tire changer for Trackhouse Racing.
In town for NASCAR’s regular season finale race, the Coke Zero Sugar 400 at the Daytona International Speedway, AdventHealth brought Brown to Westside Elementary School and Seabreeze High School to visit students.
Brown’s journey from a future football career to dealing with a life-altering heart condition, and eventually finding a new path in NASCAR, served as an inspiration for young students and athletes, the Daytona Beach News-Journal, FOX 35 and Ormond Beach Observer all reported.
Seabreeze High School
Brown’s story hit home for Seabreeze High School junior Brogan Kelly, a football and baseball player and wrestler.
Kelly underwent open-heart surgery in June for a rare heart defect detected during AdventHealth’s annual free physicals for athletes, band members and Jr. ROTC members within Volusia County Schools, the Ormond Beach Observer reported. As the Official Healthcare Champion of Volusia County Schools, AdventHealth also performs special screenings during these events to look for abnormal heart rhythms, known as ECGs or EKGs, which go above and beyond state or county requirements.
Last April, Kelly’s ECG led to the detection of a heart condition which then led to open heart surgery. An ECG is also credited with detecting Brown’s heart condition.
While Kelly hopes to be able to wrestle beginning in December, play baseball in the spring and return to football as a linebacker next fall, Brown’s diagnosis ended his football career, as a sudden hit on the football field could cause him to go into cardiac arrest.
Brown’s new career as a NASCAR pit crew member fills the competitive void he felt after walking away from football.
"If they wouldn’t have found that, especially how drastic mine was, it probably would’ve been crucial," Brown told FOX 35. "You can find other paths and goals even if you don’t reach your dreams that you initially had, you can always make new dreams."
Westside Elementary School
While visiting third-, fourth- and fifth-graders at Westside Elementary, Brown shared his story of overcoming challenges and reminisced on his experience as a young student.
"I’m from the spot where, people who have dreams, unfortunately never really achieve them," he said, as reported in the Daytona Beach News-Journal story.
As a student, Brown struggled to enjoy school and said that learning was hard, but reflecting back now, he knows his education is one of his most important assets.
"Education and knowledge is the one thing they can’t take from you," he told the students, explaining that while he can’t play football anymore, he can always lean on the lessons he’s learned.
"It’s all about your perspective and how you see things. For me, you can always find the positive in what goes wrong," he said. "In life, you’re going to run through these obstacles. You can either stop, or you can keep going."
Prior to working for NASCAR, Brown was unfamiliar with the world of racecars, but keeping an open mind has allowed him to find enjoyment in something new.
"Shoot for the stars, and if you don’t make it, you’re gonna land on a cloud," he said. "I landed on the cloud."
Days after visiting these students, Brown marked his first NASCAR Cup Series race at the Daytona International Speedway with a poignant gesture, inscribing one student’s name on his helmet.
Brown’s journey from the gridiron to the racetrack underscores the limitless possibilities that lie ahead and AdventHealth’s commitment to supporting the health and well-being of local students.