Southern California has been good to Los Angeles native Ron Brown, and he's been good for it.
It's where, as a kid, his dad took him to the Coliseum to see his first Rams game and a "chance to see Roman Gabriel up close."
It's where at the Summer Olympics in 1984, also in the Coliseum, he teamed with Carl Lewis, Sam Graddy, and Calvin Smith, to win the gold medal in the 4x100-meter relay race.
"Being a hometown guy, being able to be in front of my friends and fans locally, that was amazing for me," said Brown, who ran the second leg and helped set Olympic and world records with a time of 37.83 seconds.
And it's also where, later that year, he began his NFL career after the Cleveland Browns, who had drafted him in 1983 out of Arizona State, traded his rights to the Rams.
"The NFL all kind of worked together," Brown said. "And because of the success we had at the Olympics, their thing is that they want to sell tickets. Being a hometown guy and being able to play in my hometown, it was a great move for me."
For the Rams, as well. A wide receiver who became a kick return specialist, in 1985, his second season, Brown was named All-Pro and selected to play in the Pro Bowl.
Leading the league in kick returns that season with a 32.8 yards average, and finding the end zone on three of those returns, are just a couple of his fondest memories as a Ram.
"We had a lot of good, fun games. Monday Night Football was always a lot of fun. You wanted to get ready for that," Brown said. "I had a (95-yard) kick return (for a touchdown) on Monday Night Football against Washington (in 1987, to go along with a 26-yard reception for another touchdown), and they had put (Pro Bowl cornerback) Darrell Green on (special teams) because of me.
"We had a lot of friendly competitions for that particular event. That guy is extremely fast. The talent that you have with Darrell Green is he's as fast as he needs to be."
With the Rams for seven seasons – 1984-89, 91 – and helping them reach the playoffs five times, Brown had 169 kick returns for a 25.2-yards average and four touchdowns, to go along with 98 career receptions and 13 touchdowns.
And yet what makes Brown most proud of his career is that it set the stage for what he could do after hanging up his helmet and putting his cleats away in the closet.
"The things that I'm able to do afterwards as far as talking to kids, doing some mentor programs, being able to help others and being a voice for the community because of my professional days is what I'm most proud of," he said.
One way Brown is helping others is through Goals For Life.
"It's a school program, primarily Southern California high schools, but we have some middle schools also, that a friend of mine, Reggie Berry, put together several years ago," he said. "We go on school campuses and help kids set goals for themselves and help them achieve their goals. The philosophy there is, we feel that an idle mind is a devil's workshop. So we want to keep kids active and to graduate."
What does it feel like to see he's making a difference in kids' lives?
"They actually come up and they'll share some stuff with you. You'll see them go onto college and then come back and share their experiences. And they'll tell you certain things about when you came and spoke to them, how it motivated them to stay focused," Brown said.
"It's real gratifying to hear kids when they share their stories with you. Because you don't really know who you're going to reach. You're talking to a room full of kids, and some of them have questions, some of them don't. But when you ask them to continue to go and don't quit, and follow your dreams and don't let anybody tell you anything different, and they do it and have success with it, it's very rewarding."
Besides Goals For Life, Brown is also involved with the Retired Players Congress, which is for the health and welfare of former players and military veterans.
"We have a license partnership with the NFL, and part of the proceeds goes into our trust fund. That's for player's care, for athletes in need," Brown said. "And I have to give big ups to Jerry Jones. Jerry Jones gave us the Cowboys license to specifically help former Dallas Cowboy players that were before his time. He had the Michael Irvins, the Troy Aikmans, the Emmitt Smiths, but the Tony Dorsetts or the Too Tall Jones' and guys that played in that era, they're Cowboys, but he didn't own the team at that time. So he gave us the license to help guys that are in need. We're looking at a couple of different locations (for the wellness centers), one in San Antonio, Texas, and the other one here in Los Angeles.
"The military veterans, that's a program that we do separately to actually help with housing for the U.S. vets. Both rent or ownership.
"And then, one of the non-profits that I work with my cousin, we have a Pop Warner team in Snoop's (Dogg) (youth football) league called the Crenshaw Rams. That helps keep kids off the street and teach them how football is a lifestyle, not just a sport.
"There's been a lot of guys go to the NFL through Snoop's league. So big ups to Snoop for keeping the league together. Snoop and I go back all the way to the Death Row (Records) days. So we've been longtime friends."
Brown and his wife, Sonia, who make their home in Orange County, have five children: Nicole, Ronnie, Kennedy, Brianna, and Tyler; and six grandchildren.
For the past three years, Brown has been a partner in a CLIA certified lab, which has been doing COVID testing. And since 2006, he has also been a partner in a Southern California construction company.
"I kind of get the jobs," Brown said. "We do a lot of fire restorations and commercial buildings, too. So I keep myself busy."