by | Nov 29, 1989 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

I was talking with Lomas Brown the other day and found out something I didn’t know.

“I never wanted to be a football player,” he said. “In 10th grade, I wasn’t even on the football team.”

“Really?” I said. “What team were you on?”

“I was in the band. I played the trombone.”

Now, for those of you who don’t follow football, try to envision this: Brown, the Lions’ offensive tackle, is not a small man. He is not a medium man. He weighs 275 pounds and stands 6-feet-4. That’s big. Even for a trombone.

It is hard to envision him in one of those band uniforms with hat and the white shoes, marching alongside the trumpets and tubas. Not that many kids would want to stand next to him. I can see Lomas taking a deep breath, blowing into the mouthpiece, and watching the slide fly across the field and hit the clarinet player in the head.

“What happened?” I asked.

“The first week of school, I was walking to band practice and the principal came up and said, ‘Young man, do you play sports?’ And I said, ‘No, I was in band.’ And he said, ‘I think you should try out for the football team.’ And I said, ‘What about the band?’ And he said, ‘You can always come back to the band.’

“And he took me down there and introduced me to the coach and made me play football.”

“Did you like it?”

“At first, I hated it, because I was sore all the time.”

“Why did you join?”

“Because he was the principal. And you did whatever the principal said, right?” A principal never forgets

Now, I have heard some interesting origins of professional athletes. I have heard of an Australian baseball player, who learned to pitch only as a way to get to America. I have heard of a 7-foot-6 Dinka tribesman named Manute Bol, who never saw a basketball until his late teens, and knocked his front teeth out on the rim the first time he tried to play.

I have never heard of a trombone player snatched from the band and inserted into the high school football lineup. Usually, it’s the other way around. Kid tries out for football, gets his head pounded in, and realizes he’ll live a lot longer if he learns to play the saxophone.

But lucky Lomas. He joined the team at Miami Springs High School, became a star (“It got fun after that,” he said) and won a scholarship to Florida. Four years later, he was the No. 1 draft choice by the Lions. And today, he is one of the better tackles in the NFL. All because he didn’t want to disobey the principal.

“I don’t even know where he is now,” said Brown, laughing. “But if I ever run into him, I’d like to shake his hand.”

He may get the chance. Turns out the man’s name is Alex Bromir, he is 58 years old and he is still down there in the South Florida school system. He has worked his way up from teacher to principal and now to area superintendent. I tracked him down and called him on the phone.

“It’s about Lomas Brown,” I explained.

“Oh, Lomas!” he said. “He was a good kid.”

“He says you made him play football.”

“Hmmm. That’s right. I think I did. He was pretty big, even back then. I remember I asked him, ‘Do you play sports?’ and he said, ‘No, sir. I’m in the band.’ He was always very polite.”

“Is it common for the principal to take a kid from the band and put him on the football team?”

“No,” he said. “But not too many kids are 6-foot-4 in the 10th grade, either.”

“He says he only did it because you don’t disobey the principal.”

Bromir laughed. “He said that?” No song and dance on field

Amazing. A single sentence on a single afternoon, and now the kid is in the NFL, earning 10 times the salary of the principal. Makes you wonder how lives are changed, doesn’t it? If only someone had told Deion Sanders about the ham radio club.

“I was always proud of Lomas,” Bromir said. “I’ve followed his career a little. I still remember the night he was on the Bob Hope show with the All-America team. And I saw him play on TV last week. The Thanksgiving game.”

“Is he the most successful athlete to come out of Miami Springs High School?”

“I would have to say yes.”

“All because you plucked him from the band?”

Bromir laughed. “See what I did?”

Amazing. Of course, we’ll never know what talent the music world has lost. What if Brown were really talented on the trombone? What if he was the next J.J. Johnson? What if his real calling is tackling Mozart, not defensive linemen?

“My trombone days are over,” Brown said. “I haven’t touched the thing in years.”

Then again, you never know. Lomas wants to renegotiate his contract, but has gotten no response. If that keeps up, he might just walk into Bill Ford’s office, lift the mouthpiece to his lips, and take real good aim. . . .


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Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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