Not Just for Kicks


Being on the ball applies to every part of David Brown’s life, from football to spreading the gospel.

Imagine a crowd of 55,500 screaming fans all chanting your name. Adrenaline is pumping as you evade a defender and kick the ball into the net. “GOAL!” the Old Trafford stadium supporters shout in unison. You turn to the crowd and raise your arms in victory—what a thrill!

How would it feel to play for England’s number one soccer team, Manchester United? How would it feel to have all those people cheering for you? David Brown, 18 years old, of the Leigh Ward, Liverpool England Stake, can tell you.

At 17, David was hailed as soccer’s most publicized youngster and most talented boy in England. An outstanding athlete, he now plays as a center-forward for Manchester United’s youth team. As a reserve for the club, David experiences the high of playing for Britain’s world-famous soccer team.

The thrill of training daily with the main team shows in David’s face as he describes what to many is a dream come true. “The training is physically grueling to make sure we are in top form. I train four days a week with the club, attending college in between. It can be exhausting, but I love it.

“Part of my training includes cleaning the first team’s boots,” smiles David. “We also help tidy the training ground, and I set the balls to the right pressure. This is an apprentice tradition—it’s also a privilege.” Cleaning the shoes of soccer stars reminds David of the footsteps he will follow. He hopes that his talent and hard work will bring him the same success as players like David Becham and Ryan Griggs.

As one of the best center-forwards for his age, this ox-strong young man is said to have the ability to score from anywhere. Surprisingly, watching football (soccer) didn’t interest David when he was young. “My older brothers had to push me into playing with them to make up the numbers,” he remembers.

But by the age of 11, David’s talents for the sport were obvious. Selected as the best player in his school, David was chosen to play for his hometown of Bolton. As one of the best players for Bolton, he was picked by scouts to play for Oldham Athletic. When his four-year contract with Oldham ended, Manchester United couldn’t wait to snatch him up.

As the only Latter-day Saint on the team, he has the opportunity of raising his standards high. “The other players respect me for my beliefs. They don’t tease me about my social life when I don’t follow them to the pubs and booze-ups. They know that I don’t drink and respect that decision.”

In order to keep his testimony strong, David actively attends church each Sunday and weekday activities. “I’ve just been set apart as a stake missionary, and I serve as a home teacher,” he says. His work as a stake missionary should have a positive effect on those in the Manchester area—many of whom follow Manchester United and may recognize David.

The Church plays an important role in my life,” David says. “Participating in seminary helped build my testimony growing up.” Arising at 6:00 A.M. daily, David studied early-morning seminary for four years. His mother, who has taught seminary for 13 years, taught his older brothers with him.

“My brothers set good examples and uplift me,” says David. The strong bond that is so obvious between the Brown brothers likely results from sharing the same room growing up. They wrestle and tease each other as brothers do, but their teamwork is apparent. They care for each other and desire to see each other succeed. One by one, his three older brothers have left to serve missions: Bryce to Oklahoma, Gary to London, England, and Paul to Leeds, England. As each brother graduated from seminary and left to serve a mission, the class became smaller. By his final year of seminary, David was the only student in his mother’s class. However, it didn’t stop him. He knew the importance of grounding his testimony firmly in the scriptures.

As his teacher and mother, Sister Brown has seen David’s testimony develop. “He’s got courage to live the gospel no matter what anyone else says,” she declares.

A favorite scripture that keeps David strong in the face of adversity is Doctrine and Covenants 82:10 [D&C 82:10]: “I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.” David says, “I know that when I apply this in my life, everything else will fall into place.”

An area in which he has put the Lord first is in Sunday matches. Though football tournaments are often scheduled on Sundays, David decided at the age of 11 that he wouldn’t play on the Sabbath. His coach and manager respected him for this decision and worked around it with him. David relates how the Lord blessed him for his obedience. “In England, matches are often postponed because of bad weather. At the end of one season, all the Sunday matches that had been deferred were played midweek instead. I was able to play in all six games—and scored thirty-two goals.” This earned him the title of top scorer for the season and a reputation as “the boy who never plays on a Sunday.”

David enjoys spending the little free time he has relaxing at home with his parents and brothers. He says, “My best friends are my brothers.” They are all close in age: Bryce is 25, Gary is 22, Paul is 21, David is 18, and Stephen is 15. With no other priesthood holders between the ages of 15 and 20 in their ward, they encourage each other to be active in the gospel.

David finds a good balance between church and football. A key to success is hard work. His mum recalls how independent David wished to be as a boy. “He has always been a worker,” she says. “Whether it was homework or seminary booklets, he would just get on with it without being nagged. David coined the phrase in our house: ‘I’ll do it on me own,’ for which we always tease him. David has the ability to work hard at whatever he does.”

For others who are striving for success in their chosen careers, David offers the following advice: “Try hard in anything you want to do, and always put the Lord first.” His determination to be a star football player has set him on a course for greatness. He wants to develop the athletic talents he’s been given. By following the examples set by his brothers, parents, and team members, David will keep his eyes focused on his goals—both spiritual and physical.

He will do what he does best, stay on the ball.

[photos] Photography courtesy of Manchester United Football Club and by Mathew Van Orden

[photos] (Right) David shows off a couple of his trophies. (Top inset) Old Trattford, the home stadium for the Manchester United Club, holds crowds of loud, devoted fans when the team is on the field. (Bottom inset) David’s family devotes time to gospel study, a great support for David as he works to represent his family and his beliefs.