By Jim Hague
Observer Sports Writer
Before he became a standout safety with the New York Giants, Stevie Brown was a big fan of the Dr. Seuss children’s books.
“I did the ‘Six by Seuss,’ growing up,” said Brown, a native of Dallas, Texas, who grew up in Columbus, Indiana. “I read them all the time And I still read a lot for fun.”
So when Brown was asked to come to Lyndhurst and read for the third and fourth graders of the district, as part of the “Read Across America” program, he was all for it.
“I think it’s a great idea,” said Brown, who had a breakthrough season with the Giants in 2012. “It’s a lot of fun. Anything that encourages the kids to read is a great idea.”
Brown was brought into the high school gymnasium to read the Dr. Seuss classic, “I Wish I Had Duck Feet.”
Dr. Seuss, whose real name was Theodor Seuss Geisel, was born on March 2, 1904. A little over a decade ago, the National Education Association deemed every March 2 as the “Read Across America” day in honor of Dr. Seuss’ birthday.
Since then, people from all walks of life have volunteered their time to read some of the Dr. Seuss classics to grade school students.
Since March 2 fell on a Saturday this year, the celebration in Lyndhurst took place on Friday – with Brown as the guest of honor.
In reading the book, Brown said that if he had duck feet, “nobody could stop me, nobody at all.”
As it turned out, nobody could stop Brown last season when Brown had a historic year. He was named the NFC Defensive Player of the Week twice. He recorded two interceptions and a fumble recovery in a win over Dallas and had two interceptions and a forced fumble in a win over New Orleans. His 48-yard interception return a touchdown off a Michael Vick pass broke open the Giants’ 42-7 rout of the Philadelphia Eagles.
All totaled, Brown had eight interceptions, which was second in the NFL and his 307 return yards set a new team record and was the fourth highest total in NFL history.
His eight interceptions was the highest total for a Giants defensive back in more than 35 years.
Not bad for a guy who didn’t even start the year as a key member of the defense, who only got his chance to play this season because of injury.
And considering that Brown was first drafted by the Oakland Raiders, then spent time with both the Indianapolis Colts and Carolina Panthers before signing with the Giants as a free agent last April, the 2012 season was like a dream come true.
Brown’s status with the Giants is still up in the air for the 2013 season, but he figures to be back. He’s a restricted free agent, which means any team that would want him could sign him, but the Giants get first chance to match the contract offer Brown receives.
“I think I’ll be back,” Brown said. “I’m just waiting it out. It’s tough to see a lot of my friends and teammates go. I’m close to guys like (Michael) Boley and (Chris) Canty (two players that the Giants already released to get relief under the NFL’s salary cap). I’m not used to seeing friends go like that, but it’s definitely part of the business. They’re my good friends.”
Brown said that last season was a major disappointment for the Giants, who finished 9-7 and missed out of the playoffs, denying the team a chance to defend the Super Bowl championship they won the year before.
“We’re extremely hungry,” Brown said. “With the New York Giants, it’s usually the Super Bowl or nothing. That’s how we look at it.”
After Brown was done reading, he was besieged with a series of questions from the youngsters, ranging from the well thought out to the sublime.
“Do you know Eli Manning?” one kid asked.
“Do you like the other Giants?” another asked.
But some questions were interesting.
“How old were you when you starting playing?”
“I was in fifth or sixth grade,” Brown said.
“What’s your favorite position to play?”
“Well, I’m a safety, but if I was a little taller, I’d love to be a defensive end,” Brown said.
“Who inspired you to play football?”
“I have an older brother who played and I wanted to be just like him,” Brown said. “I wanted to do everything that he did, only do it more and do it better.”
After Brown finished answering the questions, he posed for a picture in the bleachers with the students and bid his farewell after hearing a chant of “Go Giants” from the youngsters.
Needless to say, Brown’s appearance brought a lot of smiles to the kids of Lyndhurst.
“It brought a lot of excitement,” said Lyndhurst Superintendent of Schools Tracey Marinelli. “Whenever a professional athlete comes, it sends such an important message, because Stevie is such a role model and hero. And he did a fantastic job of reading. He read and showed the pictures at the same time. He had experience doing it.”
Brown said that the first time he read in front of youngsters was at another appearance earlier Friday.
Marinelli said that she called the Giants to see if they would be able to send a player for “Read Across America.”
“We have a great relationship with the Giants,” Marinelli said. “We consider the Giants to be good friends.”
Two years ago, several Giants came to Lyndhurst, along with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, to initiate the league’s “Play 60” program, actually breaking in some new playground equipment while also playing games with the youngsters.
“The Giants are always there when we need them,” Marinelli said. “They’re a great colleague.”
And hopefully, Brown will be a friend and neighbor for the years to come.
“I have to earn it,” Brown said. “Coach (Coughlin) always says that nothing is handed to you. That’s the way I have to look at it.”