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SMITHFIELD — Most parents don’t expect to bury their children, but for Quinton Brown’s mother, Eerie Brown, she finds solace in knowing her son died doing what he loves.
“It don’t hurt me as bad, but it hurts,” Eerie said.
On Friday night, Smithfield-Selma High welcomed Eerie and her family back to honor Quinton’s memory with a plaque, a memorial at the school permanently and a picture of the fallen player. He passed away on Jan. 3, 1996, after collapsing on the court during Spartans basketball game.
“Somebody was about to take a foul shot, and I had just came out the game so I was on the bench,” former teammate Possia Sanders recalled. “And I’m like, ‘Look at this dude, he’s clowning. He up there acting like something wrong with him.’ A couple of seconds later, he just hit the ground.”
“It’s like everything just stopped. It went from this guy is clowning to something is really wrong with him.”
Brown had a virus that attacked his heart vessel. The game did not finish, because both teams came and sat at the hospital awaiting word on the 11th-grader.
“Even at the hospital, they told us he was still fighting,” Sanders said. “They was saying the typical person would be gone by now, but Q was still fighting.”
That was typical of Quinton, said Eerie Brown. She said his heart and resilience helped her through his passing.
“He pushes me to keep fighting and keep going and never give up,” Eerie said. “It’s something you can’t describe. It made me stronger. I worked in nursing and I worked all the time to keep from thinking about it.”
Brown wasn’t the biggest guy, but he had a resilience that carried him through his life.
“When he was little, he broke legs and all and still played football and basketball,” Eerie reminisced. “That was it. It was just something he loved and he wouldn’t give it up.”
When Brown initially came to North Carolina from Arkansas as a freshman in 1994, he was labeled too short to play and it was already the middle of the season, so there were no tryouts to prove himself. Brown had to find tape to show the coach he could play. He was instantly added to the team once he presented the tape to the coach, his mother said. But then, Sanders, who was one of the best players on the team, wasn’t too happy to have a new teammate.
“I didn’t like him; he didn’t like me — at first,” Sanders said. “It was that teenage testosterone. Trying to figure things out, trying to figure life out. But when we finally clicked, it was amazing.”
Sanders and the rest of the team dedicated the rest of the 1996 season and the 1996-97 season to Brown. Sanders said they played their hardest every night in honor of Brown, who always played his hardest. His teammates led the charge to get Brown honored — 20-plus years later.
Spartans athletic director and head basketball coach Matt Cuddington said that he and Brown’s former teammate Geoff Marett talked about it before the season and felt it was long overdue.
“It was long overdue, long long overdue,” Cuddington said. “I remember when it happened because I was playing at North Johnston, and that’s one thing that not only affected this community, the school, or obviously the family — but it affected everybody. Taking time to honor him, hopefully, hopefully did justice to him and the family.”
Eerie Brown and her family were glad to have Quinton’s life honored and remembered. She believes her son’s life had an impact.
“I think he was put here on earth to show them they can do anything they want to do, especially if you love it,” Eerie said.
“Everything I do, I do it to the best of my ability because I know Q would’ve did everything to the best of his ability,” Sanders added.