Tai Brown, a senior Golden Valley running back and linebacker, is asleep in his room.
He feels a kiss on his face and hears a small voice say, “I love you.”
The small voice belongs to Noah, Brown’s son, who will turn 2 on Nov. 7.
That’s the cue.
Noah runs out the door, and Brown, who is 17, chases after him.
“Noah never stops,” Brown said at a Golden Valley practice Tuesday. “He has a motor.”
Tai Brown is on the sidelines Friday night.
The Grizzlies’ star running back, KJ Maduike, is pulled from the game after spraining his ankle. The team has to decide how to compensate for the loss.
That’s the cue.
In that game against Canyon, Brown ran for 81 yards and three touchdowns. Golden Valley won, 31-23.
“I think I was able to do well because I had other people on the offensive line step up and I had a lot of people that had my back during the game,” Brown said.
Brown has had more support than just the line in football, school and in his personal life. Both his parents and Noah’s mother’s parents have been supportive since the start, which is largely the reason why the young family has stayed together, according to Brown.
Grizzlies coach Dan Kelley has also been supportive from the start.
“He approached me to let me know he was having a son and that he was still going to be dedicated to football and he was still going to compete and work hard and he had full support from his family,” Kelley said.
“He was very mature at that age, even though he was in ninth grade. He’s only grown from that foundation up.”
Brown said that since the birth of his son, he’s felt a greater sense of responsibility. During the week, he heads straight home after football practice to watch the toddler so the mother, whom he is still with, can go to work.
“It’s kind of weird to say, but I feel like having a son actually helped me manage my time better,” Brown said. “Now I have a responsibility at home, so I don’t feel tempted to go out on the weekends, I just stay at home, make sure I get all my homework done and just focus on football.”
Noah is at every Golden Valley football game, motor running as usual, watching his dad on the field.
“I forget what game it was,” Kelley said, “but he came running on the field and had his arms up and I picked him up.
“I have a son that’s 1 and Noah is going to be 2, so Tai and I kid around. We’re both dads. But he was a dad before I was.”
There’s not a practice that goes by that Brown doesn’t get teased about being a dad, but he said that it actually helps him stay relaxed.
“I was scared personally,” he said. “And I had my team teasing me about it, making jokes. That kind of calmed me down and now that (Noah’s) here, it’s not bad. I have a lot of fun with him.”
Although football is a major part of Brown’s life, he said he won’t pressure Noah to play, but rather encourage him to pursue whatever makes him happy.
Just like he himself is doing.
“I believe that any person in any given situation can handle the situation if they really put their mind to it,” Brown said. “I knew in my heart that I was going to take care of my son and I’ve been doing it ever since.”