Cheldon Brown Thrives in Leadership Role
March 12, 2013
by Cameron Tieuli (COMM '13)
MILWAUKEE - Senior high jumper Cheldon Brown is entering his fourth and final outdoor track season in what has been a stellar career competing for the Golden Eagles. A strong indoor track season in which he cleared the No. 4 mark in program history (6-feet, 9.5 inches), now has him eyeing the 7-foot barrier, a new program record, and a trip to the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships.
While his college competition days are coming to a close, over his tenure with the team he has made it evident to all who have been around him that his impact has been anything but one-dimensional.
As a blossoming teenager in Springfield, Ill., Brown excelled early on at the high school level in both track and field as well as basketball. In basketball, he was considered an athletic, active college prospect with great energy and feel for the game. His teammates' respect for Brown was so high that he was named a captain going into his junior year.
On the track, as early as his sophomore year, he and his older teammate Major Clay — who later went on to be a two-time All-American at Indiana State University — formed one of the best jumping duos in the country, both clearing personal-best marks hovering around seven feet.
“When I was younger, if someone had told me that I wasn't going to be doing a team sport (like basketball) in college, I wouldn't have believed them at all,” Brown recollected.
He later realized that with his skill-set, a walk-on role at the NCAA Division I level, or a spot on a Division II squad would not be realizing his full potential. That's because in addition to being a skilled athlete, Brown was performing at an elite level in the classroom as well. He finished in the top 10 in his class academically, garnering recognition as an Illinois State Scholar, and a National Honor Society member.
With a resumé like that, and aspirations to be a computer engineer, Brown decided to take the road that offered him the best chance to reach the peak of his ability both athletically, and academically. The opportunity came to fruition with a scholarship offer from Marquette to compete on the track and field team, and study engineering.
“I wanted a place where I could fit right in academically and athletically. It came down to feeling part of the plan for the team, like I could be a big part of the squad. At Marquette, I felt all of that,” Brown said.
Anyone can see that with a tall, lean, athletic body, Brown is built for athletics. What people can't see however, is what motivates Brown on a deeper level, and that is his natural motivation to learn, to lead, and to help others. And that is just what he has done since he arrived on campus in 2009.
“I was told that it would be challenging,” Brown said, referring to the undertaking of a rigorous academic schedule and new training regimen on the track. “But I never saw it as a roadblock. I thought that I had the skills the intelligence to be able to do both at a high level. “
While his freshman year presented many new forms of adversity in the classroom and as a jumper, he never let it get in the way of his top priority as a student-athlete, and that was to be himself and be a humble example in which others could respect and look up to.
“Leadership skills are natural to me, I'm a person that likes to help others and go out of my way to make someone else better,” Brown said. “Sophomore year I was thrust into a leadership role because I was the one of the oldest people in my (sprints and jumping) group, but I've always felt comfortable helping others first.”
It's that type of leadership and constant dedication to bettering himself and others on and off the track that has the Marquette track and field team getting better by the year.
“Cheldon has meant a great deal to the team both in his consistency as a competitor in meets and as a leader,” Marquette head coach Bert Rogers said of his senior captain. “He is very well respected by his teammates. In his life, I predict that Cheldon will always find himself in positions of responsibility. He always does things the right way and doesn't cut corners. He has been a key part of our resurgent jumps program.”
While this will be his last season of eligibility with the team, Brown still plans to spend another year in school to finish a double-major in computer-electrical engineering and business administration.
Next year he plans to have plenty of impact on the team, in a role which he is already comfortable.
“Next year I will be here for a fifth year, but I plan to stick around and help out with the team and the jumpers. My focus will turn to the others on the team,” Brown said.
After that, Brown is undecided whether he will pursue a master's degree in engineering or business administration, or whether he will test the job market initially. Either way, it is safe to say he has prepared himself well for life outside of college.
As for getting over the 7-foot barrier, setting the program record, and possibly making it to the NCAA Championships?
“I know I've gotten stronger, faster, and I've been provided the tools to get better. So I've never felt that something has been holding me back. I've always felt ready to do it, but I just needed the time. I think now is the time.”
Regardless of outcomes this spring, Cheldon Brown has already made his lasting impression on the program and has completed what he set to do.
He came. He learned. He continues to lead.