From the Insiders Premium Message Board
I met Jermaine some 4 years ago at a 'party', rather a small gathering of friends. He was there with a couple of girls who were friends-of-freinds,etc. My first thought was that I was a little uncomfortable, I mean this is JERMAINE, the bada** lineman from California and he is a rather imposing figure. He strolled up to me, stuck out his hand and grinned from ear to ear and said 'My name is Jermaine'. (not 'THE Jermaine', or 'Jermaine BROOKS', or 'I'm the Jermaine Brooks that starts for the Hogs....just Jermaine). I told him how much I enjoyed watching him play and how glad I was that he had decided to sign to play with the Hogs. To this day I remember that night vividly--my girlfriend and I spent more than an hour talking with Jermaine about sports, life, growing up in California, etc. Being in the liquor business, one thing that immediately stood out to me was the fact that Jermaine was NOT drinking. Oh, sure, his friends tried to get him to drink, but he held his ground. At one point he told me that he did drink, but he could only handle something light like a wine cooler or two because he didn't have much of a tolerance.
One other thing that stood out to me --and that has worried me from that first night I met Jermaine--was the other guy that was with him and his lady friends. He's a white kid from Fayetteville, a prepetual school dropout who probably couldn't even tell you where RRS is located. He was and is T-R-O-U-B-L-E. I won't mention names, but this individual was arrested a couple of years ago for DWI, posession of gun(s) in his vehicle and possession of marijuana. I couldn't ever (or didn't want to ever believe) there was a reason that Jermaine would be hanging out with this person. Over the years, my girlfriend and I often spoke of that and said how much we hoped that Jermaine was merely an acquaintance of this guy and how we hoped that he wasn't in to that scene.
I would periodically run into Jermaine around town after that night. I'm embarrassed to say it, but a couple of times I even forgot who he was until I saw that big grin on his face. He never forgot my name or that of my girlfriend. He knew what a Hog fanatic that I was and he never missed a chance to tell me how much it meant to him. My girlfriend always told him that she watched for his #48 jersey every game and I swear he blushed every time and....that grin....he'd just put his head down and say 'You know that means so much to me--man I love you guys--that's why I love to play here'.
Probably the biggest thing that stood out to me about Jermaine though was something that really took me by surprise the first night I met him: Jermaine likes to hug people. Anytime we spoke, when saying good-bye, Jermaine would give my girlfriend a big hug. Now, that's not out of the ordinary. But he told me that first night--'your'e gettin a hug too, you know'. And, so it went, every time I've seen Jermaine over the years. I learned not to even ask or hesitate, just to get ready for that big grin and my bear hug from Jermaine. My girlfriend first said it--that Jermaine was a big burly guy, but he was so cute, quiet, nice and cuddly that he was like a giant teddy-bear. We always joked about some of the hits that that big teddy bear could deliver during games. Last season when we saw Jermaine before a Feyatteville game, she told him that he was her giant teddy bear and she'd be looking for him that next day. We got our hugs and as we were on our way he asked me where we were sitting at the game--I told him front row, east side and he said 'I'll be looking for you too--I love you guys'. And, I'll be darned if he didn't look for us, and find us after the game and we both got big sweaty teddy-bear hugs after that game.
I can't defend what Jermaine did. If he is guilty, he will have to pay the price for his decisions and actions. I will also support HDN and whatever decision he makes regarding Jermaine. It tears me up to see so many hateful and spiteful things said about Jermaine, though. No doubt he screwed up--BIGTIME. But there are countless redeeming qualities about Jermaine. I hope that he will learn from this--not just for his football career, but for life. Jermaine had no reason to ever stroll up to me and politely introduce himself that first night. Heck, I'm a decade (and then some!) older than him and it's not exactly like we had a lot in common. But, the one thing we did and do have in common, that he never missed a chance to tell me was this: we loved the Razorbacks.
My heart goes out to that big teddy bear this morning. I know he's hurting. I hope and pray that this will turn Jermaine around, whether he's ever able to wear his Hog helmet again or not.