A promising football career has come to a heartbreaking end for Penn State running back Journey Brown.
Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin announced Wednesday night that Brown, 21, would no longer be able to play football due to a heart condition known as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Brown followed with an emotional post on Twitter about his career coming to an end.
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"It’s heartbreaking ... and when we found out about it you’re in shock. You feel physically sick about it and you’re just in shock. You hurt for the kid," Franklin told reporters after practice, according to the York Daily Record. "Obviously, it's magnified because of all the conversations that were going on about Journey and what he was going to be able to do this season."
"I didn’t even expect to make it this far but it’s about Journey, not the destination," Brown tweeted alongside a graphic of his statement.
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is a condition usually caused by abnormal genes in the heart muscle that cause the walls of the heart chamber to become thicker than normal, which can reduce the amount of blood pumped throughout the body, according to the American Heart Association. It's a chronic disease that can worsen over time.
"The pain of not being able to play the game I love anymore hurts and I can’t explain how I am feeling right now," Brown said in his statement. "However, I can walk away from the game knowing I truly gave my all at every practice, on every down and in the locker room every day. You never know when you will play your last snap, but I know I left it all out there and have no regrets, other than wishing I could step on the field one final time."
Brown's heart condition was discovered during a routine COVID-19 test in early September but is not related to COVID-19, according to Franklin.
The 5-foot-11, 217-pound redshirt junior was poised to be one of Penn State's top players this year as he built toward a future in the NFL. He led the team with 890 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns last season, but did not play in the team's 0-3 start to this season with what was described as an undisclosed medical condition.
"Journey's a great guy and he's a leader of this team," Penn State tight end Pat Freiermuth told reporters ahead of the season opener, according to 247 Sports. "Everyone looks up to him, including myself. Everything he's been through, everything he's stood for and everything he's worked so hard for throughout his time here — you know, I look up to him as an individual."
What turned out to be Brown's final game was one to remember, as the Pennsylvania native was named the offensive MVP in Penn State's win over Memphis in the Cotton Bowl Classic last year. He rushed for 202 yards and two touchdowns.
"I finally had the opportunity to showcase what I was born to do and, hopefully, set myself up to achieve my lifelong dream of playing in the NFL," Brown wrote. "Unfortunately, the dream will never be realized as I have been diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, which will force me to medically retire from the game of football."
Brown shared how he has been playing the game since fourth grade and really came to love it as a sophomore in high school.
"I won’t miss the game of football because it will always be a part of me," he wrote.