Jeremy Brown takes nothing for granted

Last season, Jeremy Brown was forced to consider giving up football. It’s not something he never wanted to think about but so many sleepless nights of never-ending back pain were taking a toll.

“It was excruciating pain,” Brown said Friday after the Florida Gators completed their second day of spring practice. “I almost thought I was done. There were times when we were talking about that.”

At the root of the cornerback’s 5-10, 182-pound cornerback’s back issues are two ruptured disks suffered after enrolling early in the spring of 2008. During that first spring on campus he earned rave reviews from Urban Meyer, who said he was further along than Janoris Jenkins, who has started two consecutive years. Brown suffered the first back injury of his career toward the end of the spring and it has been quite an ordeal ever since.

After spring football was over, the ruptured disks caused issues with the joints and nerves in his lower back, which put football on the backburner. Before he ever considered playing football again, he had to get his health in order.

Brown really didn’t want to give up football but it was something he had to consider after a year-and-a-half of constant pain.

“You always have to [think about it],” Brown said. “I’m a young guy. Your back is something you hear about with older people. I’ve got to think about my future. I’ve got a little boy and I want to be with him and my family.”

Before making any decision, however, Brown decided to go through the rehabilitation process in case there was a treatment that would allow his return. Gradually, he began to feel better. Last fall the pain subsided significantly enough that he was cleared by doctors to begin working out with the team in January. After riding a stationary bike for most of his Florida career, Brown was allowed to begin running and lifting weights along with the teammates he hadn’t worked out with in almost two years.

He made so much progress that he’s back with the team and practicing again, which has given him a newfound bounce in his step. Even little things like running around on the field are things he couldn’t be more thankful for.

“It’s been a long journey, a lot of ups and downs that ended in injury to set me back,” Brown said. “It was a major setback for me and my career.”

As good as the back feels for Brown, the team doctors still want to play it safe. He isn’t going to have full clearance for contact until they see how it responds to running around and going through drills.

But if the first few days of drills are any indication, Brown has already regained the cover skills he had during that first group of spring football practices in 2008.

“I’m going to do some contact, but we’re going to monitor it closely until week three,” Brown said. “By the end of spring, I should be full go. Right now, it’s just limited.”

Browns’ return to the practice field couldn’t be timed any better. Joe Haden’s departure to the NFL has opened up a cornerback spot on the opposite side of Jenkins.

If Brown would have been healthy for last season, he would have been in the rotation although it’s unlikely that he would have been able to upend Haden or Jenkins from their starting position. Now he may be setting himself up to start if he can put together a solid spring.

“Competing, baby,” Brown said with a grin about his expectations for playing time. “That’s why I came to Florida- competing.”

He may have slipped through the cracks over the past few years because of injury, but there’s only one thing that has been to keep Brown off the field at Florida — his health. With those struggles behind him, he now aims for the available starting position.