By Lori Draz
On Thursday, November 10, Red Bank Catholic (RBC) welcomed home one of its very successful alumni, former NFL running back Donald Brown (RBC ’05). He returned to his alma mater to host an assembly for the students, where he talked about making smart choices. Mr. Brown is a celebrity role model for Natural High, a national 501 (c) 3 non-profit drug prevention program designed to inspire and help young people discover and pursue their “natural high” so they have a reason to say no to drugs and alcohol.
Natural High was started nearly 20 years ago. In 1994, Jon Sundt lost two brothers to addiction and he was determined to use his tragedy to affect change. His vision was to simply shift the way youth are spoken to about addiction and dispel the myth around drugs and alcohol. He began traveling to schools with local celebrities, hoping that his story could help save even one life.
Today, Natural High reaches over eight million youths across the country, inspiring a generation of young people who believe in saying yes to their passions and no to drugs and alcohol. Speakers have included many of the leading athletes in many different sports like Tony Hawk, Chelsea Hightower, Lauren Conrad, Rob Machado, Tim Howard, Travis Pastrana, and local favorite Donald Brown, who was a star running back at RBC, where he also ran both winter and spring track. He went on to University of Connecticut, where he became the school’s all-time leading rusher. In 2009, he was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts, where he played for five years before signing with the San Diego Chargers in 2014. In the 2016 off season, he joined the New England Patriots.
Currently a free agent living in Spring Lake with his wife Mallory (Counihan, RBC ’04) and two sons, Mr. Brown dedicates himself to promoting the positive message of Natural High throughout the country. He is a national Natural High Ambassador and has personally championed an effort to pass legislation to implement the Natural High Drug Prevention curriculum in school districts throughout New Jersey. He can be seen in Natural High videos and is a regular national speaker at school assemblies. At the RBC assembly, Natural High representatives recognized Mr. Brown for his work to inspire millions of youths nationally and presented him with the 2016 Natural High Game Changer Award.