There's a highlight that helps sum up Jerry Brown for so many who never got to know him.
It happened on a kickoff, during the Jacksonville Sharks' playoff run to the Arena League championship last year.
The ball sailed deep into the end zone and a Georgia Force player made the catch up against the low wall. A fan reached out and restrained the returner from advancing the ball. It was a funny moment, made even better when Brown hustled into the scene to congratulate the fan for helping out.
That was vintage Jerry Brown, says his AFL former coach, Les Moss. He was the kind of person who was a great teammate, even giving credit to someone who wasn't on the team.
"Jerry was a guy," Moss told Yahoo! Sports on Saturday afternoon, "that never had a bad day."
Brown, 25, died early Saturday morning after the car driven by his friend and Dallas Cowboys teammate, Josh Brent, crashed on a Texas highway. Brent has been charged with intoxication manslaughter.
Brown, also a college teammate of Brent's at Illinois, was making progress toward his dream of playing regularly in the NFL. He was an undrafted defensive lineman out of college but he put himself on the radar of NFL teams with his play for the Sharks. Brown forced and recovered a fumble in his team's ArenaBowl win in 2011. He was picked up by the Indianapolis Colts earlier this year, where he was active for one game.
"He was a great player," said Moss. "He didn't get a shot out of college but as soon as we got him we knew we had something special. We knew he had a shot to play in the NFL.
"He had every physical attribute. He was able to get leverage on offensive linemen. He was a smart player and worked incredibly hard in practice."
More importantly, Brown was loved by his teammates for his energy and enthusiasm. Arena League rosters aren't very large, and players generally aren't wealthy, so it's just as much an extension of college as a gateway to the NFL. Moss said Brown made life better for everyone, both on and off the field.
"He was really a good teammate," Moss said. "Everybody loved him. He always had a smile on his face. He never complained. A joy to be around."
Moss then repeated: "Jerry never had a bad day."
Brown was a standout at Illinois, where he played all 13 games in 2007 and 11 games in 2008. He got his first shot at pro football with the Sharks, where he had 19 ½ tackles, six sacks and three fumble recoveries in 13 games. Brown then played 11 games with the San Antonio Talons in 2012 before signing with the Colts in May.
Moss spoke softly about his former player on Saturday, still shocked from the news, but he let out a slight laugh when recalling Brown's interaction with the fan.
"He loved to play football," the coach said. "He loved to work, he loved life. He had so much life ahead of him. He was going to be successful in what he did because of the way he was."