Family was inspiration for Cambridge United's Jevani Brown to succeed in professional ranks
Motivation comes in all different guises, and for Jevani Brown it was the birth of his daughter.
It has not been the easiest of routes into professional football for the 24-year-old, with several false dawns.
Life was not exactly drifting along, but Brown was happy to be earning some money on the side from football while earning a wage outside the game.
It was when he became a parent that his life choices altered somewhat.
“When I first left Peterborough I thought about stopping playing football myself and I didn’t play for a little while and you just start to miss it,” he said.
“On a Saturday, all of your friends have got games and you haven’t, but I think when it really clicked for me was when I had a daughter.
“As much as it was for me, it was for her as well. I want her to have the best possible life she can growing up, and that drove me back into returning.
“After I had the little one I started playing locally.
“Before, I was just playing football as a kickabout. After my little one was born, it was more a case of getting back to where I think I should be and progressing instead of just being happy turning up and having a kickabout for pocket change.”
As a child, it had all looked so promising for Brown.
He was with MK Dons from the age of 10 to 16, but despite being offered a scholarship did not get the chance to take up the opportunity.
Instead of agreeing immediately, Brown went to play for Jamaica at the Under-17s World Cup, and when he returned was told that he would have to go on trial to get his scholarship back.
Brown opted to go and trial elsewhere, and had four months at Birmingham City, where he was offered a deal but his agent at the time advised him against taking the offer.
“Everything in life happens for a reason,” he says. “At the end of the day, I’m still grateful that they gave me the opportunity to go in to try to show what I could do.
“It didn’t work out but I don’t dwell on the past and I’m here now trying to do the best I can.”
When his contract ran out with the agent, he moved to the father of Michael Cain, who sent him to Peterborough.
He became a regular in the youth sides at London Road, with promotion to the first-team squad for the 2013/14 season, but off-the-field matters meant he was released in November 2013.
“I wouldn’t want to say what happened in the past because I was young and we’ve all been there and made mistakes,” explains Brown.
“You learn from them and get wiser. I know I definitely wouldn’t make the same mistake twice.
“I think at the end of the day everything in life is just a learning curve and you’ve got to try hard either not to be put in that situation again or, if you do, make sure you make the right decision the second time around.”
The non-League circuit then beckoned for Brown.
Alongside doing numerous day jobs, working in different warehouses and sites, it was the last stop at the water works that he describes colleagues as “really good role models for me, kept me level-headed and on the right path”.
On the pitch, there were stops at Barton Rovers, Arlesey Town, Kettering Town and finally St Neots Town, where a record of 19 goals in 19 games caught the attention of League clubs and having gone on trial at Birmingham, he signed a two-year deal at the U’s in August 2017.
“You never know who is watching, you never know what is round the corner,” says Brown.
“I’ve seen it in the past where a player might get released from a club that is lower, say League Two, and if they are still young then they can potentially go and trial for an under-23 team in the Championship or Premier League, and they get signed.
“Football is based on opinions and if someone likes you they are willing to take a chance on you anywhere, it doesn’t matter what level it is.
“You can’t get too down from hearing one no – someone’s no might be someone else’s yes. You’ve just got to stick with it and believe in yourself.”
It all comes back to motivation though.
Having had the setbacks at MK Dons, Birmingham and Peterborough, it would have been easy for Brown to focus his attentions off the pitch in order to build a life for his family.
So how much of his decision to focus on football was driven by a determination not to waste his talent? Or was it just to provide for his family?
“I think it’s a bit of both,” says Brown. “You see a lot of stories about players that have gone through the league and are now playing in the Premier League, and some have made appearances for their country.
“In that sense, it is that I could be another story in that I didn’t have the best of starts and then had to work my way up again.
“On the other side, you always want the best for your family and your child growing up. I don’t ever want her to want for anything.
“You hear a lot of people saying I could have been a professional footballer but for this or that; there are no buts at the end of the day – if you’re good enough and work hard enough then it will happen.
“Sometimes injury is a factor, but at the end of the day, if you’re determined and work hard then players have come back from crazy injuries.
“If you’re determined and really want it and wake up every day trying to achieve your goals, at some point you’re going to get the opportunity to and then you have to just take it.”
That chance arrived at Cambridge United, and he has made an impact in his first season and a half.
“I’m very grateful that Cambridge United have seen me, taken me in and given me the chance,” he says. “Not just given me the chance to be a professional footballer again, but I have played a lot of games since I’ve been here.”
And it has also meant there is another member of the Junior U’s.
“My daughter [who is four] enjoys it because she is always cheering and singing although she doesn’t understand it fully,” says Brown.
“When it’s summer and the sun’s out and she can wear her kit with my name on the back, it’s a real inspiration for me.”