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Former Illini Brent's Crash, Brown's Death, Should Serve as a Lesson

There’s still time to serve as a role model. Professional athletes often lament being labeled a role model. They just want to play. Unfortunately, when you’re on the “big stage,” everything is magnified and scrutinized to a higher extent. Kids see everything you do, including your mistakes. Last week’s tragic mistake can still serve a greater good.

Josh Brent was, by many accounts, only a few months away from landing a big NFL contract. The former seventh round supplemental draft pick (which is about as low as a draft pick can possibly go) was finishing up his rookie contract and starting for one of the most storied franchises in professional sports. The week before the accident, his performance on the field sealed the victory when he stripped the ball from the opposing team in the game’s waning moments.

On December 8, he made the decision to drive drunk. This was not his first DUI. According to the Chicago Tribune, while a member of the University of Illinois' football team, he was arrested for drunk driving on a suspended license, a class 4 felony charge, in 2009. The aggravated DUI charge could have resulted in three years in prison. Instead, he served a short jail stint and was released on probation.

According to Yahoo! Sports, Brent's blood alcohol content was 0.18 at the time of testing, which thanks to his initial refusal of the test, was probably even lower than his BAC at the time of the accident. His Dallas Cowboys teammate and former Illini teammate Jerry Brown, Jr. died as a result of injuries sustained in the accident. Brent has now been charged with Texas' version of vehicular manslaughter and faces a sentence of two to twenty years in prison.

If Brent handles the situation well, he could turn the tragedy into something positive. Though his career is likely over, his story, from scrappy fringe player to unlikely NFL hero, to accidental killer of his friend and teammate, is sure to open a few eyes, especially if he embraces the opportunity to prevent others from making similar mistakes. As an NFL player, his mistakes are magnified by the media.

Some would say that the best lessons come from past mistakes.

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