Last year at the Christ Lutheran School, a K-8 private school in Phoenix, first graders in Miss Taylor Genoway's class lined up with Post-It notes to get an autograph from an ASU football player.
"Some of my kids literally kept his autograph on their desk the rest of the school year," Genoway said, "The kids still talk about him, even though they’re in second grade now, and it happened last year.”
The football player is ASU grad student linebacker Tre Brown, and this is just one instance in which he’s visited a school and talked to the children. It’s community engagement like this that got him placed on the 2023 Wuerffel Trophy Watch List.
The Wuerffel Trophy is awarded to one Football Bowl Subdivision player every year who impacts their community and shows exemplary passion and leadership in community service. Brown’s passion for community service prompted him to start his foundation, the Eight-Deuce Foundation.
"Under my foundation, I do things like giving back to the community and feeding the homeless," Brown said. "When I’m out here, I try to get around kids a lot. I’ll be in the classrooms, preaching about God and just doing things to give back and show the kids that they have a good brother in me.”
The Eight-Deuce Foundation also aims to bring awareness to individuals with Alzheimer's disease, cancer, and strokes. Brown has had personal connections to these diseases, including a sister who suffered a stroke. He also has two late grandmothers who each suffered from Alzheimer's disease and cancer.
Despite his passion for his foundation, when Brown visited Genoway's class, she only recalls him briefly mentioning the non-profit.
"The amazing thing about Tre is that everything he does, he’s so humble about it," Genoway said. "He’s doing it to make an impact on these kids' lives and to get them to a better place."
Brown credits his father for fueling his passion for giving back.
"My father loves the community and helping kids get on the right path if they’re on a bad one," Brown said. "We like taking bad situations and turning them into good, and then just seeing the growth from kids. Not just kids but also adults. I definitely learned that and got that from my father."
Brown admits that his community outreach has died down during the football season, but he tries to give back when he can. Before transferring to ASU, he spent his collegiate career at Washington State. WSU gave him his connection to Genoway and another opportunity to engage with the Phoenix community.
"Me and Tre actually knew of each other before he transferred to ASU because he was playing at Wazzu, and I had a lot of friends who went to Wazzu, so we knew each other through social media," Genoway said. "He asked me if there were any opportunities for him to come into the classroom and just speak to my students."
Another witness of Brown's community service and proactive efforts to be involved is A.J. Cooper. Cooper previously worked for Washington State football as a defensive coach before his career at ASU began this season. He’s known Brown for years and can testify to his admirable efforts to be a leader in community service.
"Tre was raised so well, and he’s had such good people in his life," Cooper said. "I’ve known Tre since he was 15 or 16 years old. What you see out of Tre, he’s always had those great attributes."
For Cooper, community service is important for Brown and others to become well-rounded people. Cooper believes it helps the players recognize all the positive things they have in their lives and the opportunity they have to give back.
Genoway can confirm that Brown’s visit impacted her first graders. During his time with the students, Brown discussed perseverance and the role it plays in our lives.
"I think it was an eye-opener for them," Genoway said. "It was like a boost of reassurance that they can do anything that comes toward them in life. Anything that’s given to them, they can handle with the right mindset."
It’s this type of impact that Brown and others on the Wuerffel Trophy Watch List want to induce.
Brown’s favorite part of giving back is seeing the kids smile.
"Seeing kids smile, being able to see somebody that looks up to you or looks up to older people," Brown said. "Just being able to be there and show them that we’re here to love each other. We’re here. We’re brothers and sisters. Those are just things that I love to do."
Edited by Alfred Smith III, Walker Smith and Grace Copperthite.
Correction: We changed the header image to better represent the story on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2023.