The world of social media can be a cruel place for college athletes and their families.
Some parents choose to stay away from it altogether. Some merely log on to see what people are saying about their children.
Very few sign up under their real names, share their feelings honestly, and engage all types of fans — the ones who post positive messages as well as the ones who feast on negativity.
Meet Frederick Brown.
The father of Florida State junior linebacker Josh Brown not only monitors what people are saying on Twitter, he often responds. Not necessarily to defend his son — he said he actually tries to avoid getting into debates about Josh — but to advocate for the program in general, and the players in particular.
“I’ve probably asked myself 1,000 times, ‘Why do you even get involved in this? Why do you keep engaging,'” Frederick Brown said. “But you know what? The other side of it is, this is just kind of who I am. If I can cause one person to maybe just think about some of the things they’re saying, or maybe look at things objectively, maybe from a little different perspective … I’m gonna do my best.”
Brown, who has served as a pastor for 25 years and also does motivational speaking, sees his efforts on social media as an extension of his everyday life. And he has been an active supporter of Josh’s teammates since the linebacker was playing at Mallard Creek High back home in Charlotte, N.C.
“I’ve always been a hands-on dad,” Brown said. “Not only with my son, but I’ve been a mentor — in my profession as a pastor and motivational speaker — with many athletes. I’ve always been supportive of the players and kids.”
It was that interest that led him to really ramp up his efforts on the social media app Twitter just over a year ago. At the time, Seminole Nation was caught up in the turmoil surrounding Jimbo Fisher’s final days in Tallahassee. At first, Brown expressed support for Fisher and encouraged fans to rally around the Seminoles’ coaching staff.
Then once the rumors grew so strong that Fisher was planning to leave for Texas A&M — and the head coach did little to counter the reports — Brown began speaking out for the players.
Really sick of all of the coaching changes and rumors. These distractions are so unfair to players who have to stay and play.
— Frederick Brown (@frederickbrn) November 27, 2017
You can’t get mad at players for weighing their options when their coaches do it daily.
— Frederick Brown (@frederickbrn) November 28, 2017
FSU AD and Administration needs to get this situation under control immediately. We are losing valuable commits because of the silence and lack of communication. This is ridiculous!!
— Frederick Brown (@frederickbrn) November 30, 2017
“When the process [of Fisher leaving] was going on and there was some mud-slinging and negativity, my concern was the players,” Brown said. “We can talk all we want about these players needing tough skin, and they shouldn’t worry about what people say on social media. But I think we need to take into consideration that that’s what this generation does.
“So I kind of started speaking up for those guys.”
He hasn’t stopped since … and his following has increased with his activity.
Brown currently has more than 2,800 followers on Twitter, which is more than some players on the team. And once the uncertainty surrounding the coaching staff subsided, he threw all of his support behind head coach Willie Taggart’s staff.
Brown now focuses his efforts on encouraging the team, singing the program’s praises and encouraging other fans to do the same. He tries to provide uplifting messages for the fan base after tough losses on the field and during recruiting.
My dialogue with our FSU players has been: all of this is a life lesson. Life has up’s and downs but up is always better. How you respond to adversity reveals your true character.Failure will always overshadow success with your critics.Believe in you and never stop getting better
— Frederick Brown (@frederickbrn) October 31, 2018
I will admit that missing on Putnam is disappointing to me because of need BUT we signed 3 good ones, still have until February, and some great Juco’s who want to be Noles and just want a shot. Coming off the worse season in 40 years and at #14 In recruiting is better than most.
— Frederick Brown (@frederickbrn) December 20, 2018
Brown, a former athlete in his own right and a Marshall University graduate, also is not one to shy away from confrontation.
If fans are harshly criticizing FSU’s players or coaches, he often will jump into the fray and offer a differing viewpoint. He even spoke out late last season when several former Seminole players began bashing the team following poor performances.
“I think it’s pretty obvious that I’m going to defend Florida State,” he said. “Now that doesn’t mean I’m going to agree with everything that the coaches do or that I’m just happy about everything I see. I just want to be the ‘other person’ that kind of causes us to think about things before we just tweet and say things that often aren’t factual.”
The only topic Brown typically tries to avoid are direct comments about his son. Josh, who was a four-star prospect coming out of high school, has played primarily on special teams and as a backup outside linebacker during his three years at Florida State.
Brown will speak up occasionally about Josh, but usually when the Seminoles’ entire linebacker segment is getting ridiculed.
“I don’t want to give the impression that I’m just on there fighting for playing time for Josh or anything like that,” the father said. “He’s had injuries every year — even things that the media were not privy to. In terms of him trying to stay healthy, it definitely has not gone the way that we anticipated or expected, with all that he accomplished in high school.
“But I’m always trying to teach him to look at things from the positive and not just the negative. It could be a lot worse.”
Being active on social media hasn’t worked out well for some parents of college athletes. Early last season, UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson’s father created a stir when he took to Twitter and blasted first-year Bruins head coach Chip Kelly with a series of critical posts. Other parents and family members have gotten into spats with fans.
But while Josh Brown sometimes teases his father about his social media presence, it doesn’t appear to have caused any problems for the family or the program.
“His nickname for me is Twitter Fingers,” Brown said with a laugh. “But I think he and a lot of the guys appreciate my visibility — just kind of taking up for them and defending them when I can. He’s never actually told me, ‘Dad, you need to stop tweeting.’ Because he knows for the most part I’m not going to say anything out of line to anyone. That’s just not who I am.
“But he also knows that I’m a critical thinker. And I just like to cause people to critically think about things we say.”
What keeps Brown going — and tweeting — are the small victories along the way.
Even during the difficult 2017 and 2018 seasons, he has seen signs that his positive messages are having an effect. Nearly every day, he said, he receives appreciative comments from fans … some of whom were very critical of the players or program before their interaction.
And he cherishes the new relationships he’s built along the way.
“I get it all the time,” Brown said. “Almost after every post that I put up. Whether it’s a direct message or someone just commenting. Even in the last few days with the comments about recruiting, I’ve had several direct messages from people and just comments on Facebook and Twitter saying, ‘Hey, you really brought up some good points. You’ve made me think about some things.’
“And the fans have helped me grow as well. I’ve had to look at some things and say, ‘You know what? They’re exactly right about that.’ So I’ve had to shift my thinking on some things.”
Enjoyed meeting you! You’re a great follow and I enjoy the insight and positivity from the perspective of father with a son in the program. The Noles will be just fine and these young men and coaches are setting the program up for a great future! pic.twitter.com/4ArIUIS7At
— Patrick Fuscaldo (@patrickfus) October 1, 2018
Like all college football fans, Brown is excited to see what the upcoming season will bring. He has been a staunch supporter of Taggart and his staff, and he has high hopes that his son will finish his career on a high note.
Josh is finally healthy, he said, and is as determined as ever.
The last couple seasons haven’t gone according to plans for #51 but it’s a new year, another opportunity and he refuses to quit. Had a couple days of rest but even while home we have to put that work in. We need him on the field and not in the tub. Go Noles! pic.twitter.com/g22pCr54US
— Frederick Brown (@frederickbrn) January 2, 2019
I know actions speak louder than words but it begins with the right mindset and conversation. Listening to Josh and Hamsah along with teammates on the phone talking while on our way back to Tally has me fired up about next season. This team is getting focused and ready to work.
— Frederick Brown (@frederickbrn) January 4, 2019
No matter what happens in 2019, Brown said he, his son and their family will look back at these years as a positive experience.
He hopes others will feel good about it as well.
“We love the fan base,” Brown said. “I love the fact that Josh is going to be able to graduate next December — he’s going to be able to graduate from Florida State University. He’s been a pretty stand-up guy. He’s been a pretty high-character kid for the most part. So I’m hoping all that he’s done — even though ball hasn’t gone quite the way that we anticipated — just the fact that he can graduate and maintain relationships with Florida State’s alumni, that’s valuable.”