The Daily Nole

Sunday Centerpiece: A Father’s Perspective

Photo Provided to The Daily Nole

Sports has always seemed to be an undertone on Father’s Day.

For even those who didn’t participate in levels as high school, the mere day itself can trigger memories of playing catch in the yard or shooting basketball at the park or driveway. For fathers in almost all cases, pride in one’s children goes well beyond anything that ever happened on a field or court.

That’s even true for those who participate at the highest levels of athletics, including at Florida State. But watching their children compete at such high levels can bring scrutiny that most parents of college students or young adults never experience.

Frederick Brown is the father of FSU senior linebacker Josh Brown. Injuries are among the issues that have taken a toll on Josh Brown, a former 4-star prospect from North Carolina. Brown has been primarily a special teamer for the Seminoles. Frederick Brown, a former student-athlete himself at Marshall, knows how hard his son has worked to get to FSU and says it can be painful to watch him get so few reps on defense.

“It’s been very painful for us,” he said. “Being that dad at practice every single day in high school and seeing him excel and get to Florida State and then not being able to have the career we hoped for, that’s tough. He never had injuries in high school. I’ve had sleepless nights. Seeing him stand on the sidelines, my job is to keep him hopeful and healthy mentally as well.”

Donny Scolaro is the father of FSU baseball sophomore pitcher Jonah Scolaro. During stressful situations or rough outings, he said the parents often take the situation harder than the players, especially at such a high level. Jonah Scolaro could have the opportunity to pitch in Omaha during the College World Series.

“It really does affect you when it’s your kid,” Donny Scolaro said. “You always worry about their confidence. If people could sit there and watch parents during games, they would see it’s an emotional roller coaster. When they’re younger or in high school, it’s bad too, but nothing like this. The kids — our sons — typically don’t let it affect them, which is probably one of the reasons they’re at this level.”

Much like Frederick Brown, Andrew Vassell is a former student-athlete himself. The father of FSU hoops guard Devin Vassell, Andrew Vassell played at Stony Brook in the early 1980s. The different between playing and watching his son, he said, is significant.

“Every game, it gets to you,” he said. “You’re always on the edge. You see his mistakes. The great thing with Devin is he always learns from his mistakes and usually doesn’t make the same mistake twice.”

With fathers of sons or daughters in athletics, there are a lot of life lessons that come along the way. Eventually, the recruiting process comes along and offers a whole new slew of challenges and perspectives.

“The most important thing we talk about is just being humble and Devin is very humble,” Vassell said. “That goes a long way. Devin knows that everything he has can be taken away.”

Vassell said one of the first trials for his son was getting cut by the school basketball team in seventh grade. Devin Vassell, the father said, briefly lost his enthusiasm for the game but regained and a growth spurt soon followed.

“Devin was the most talented basketball player in school,” Andrew Vassell said. “We had to tell him that getting cut wasn’t about him, but someone’s judgement of him. Devin really listens well. Once Devin started growing, he got to be a really good basketball player. Devin has always been determined to be the best.”

Vassell said his son had always wanted to play in the ACC. As the scholarship offers moved from mid-majors to Power 5 programs during high school, the older Vassell said his son started to stress and wasn’t playing his best. Soon after that, he took up FSU assistant Charlton Young on his offer.

“I wanted to be there for him at all times,” the father said. “Devin always wanted to play in the ACC and continued to work harder and harder. When Coach Young came out and offered, other schools came out of the wood work. He wanted to play in the ACC and there was Florida State, so we were like, ‘what are we waiting for’? Once he made that decision, he was able to relax and play with confidence.”

Frederick Brown said he comes from a good family, but his mother was in the Washington D.C. area and his father was in California and wasn’t always able to be around. When teams came with football scholarships for Josh Brown, he said he was fortunate to be part of the process.

“I’m a hands-on dad and was 100 percent involved with his recruiting and always have been with football and academics and we’ve had a great relationship,” Brown said. “It was easy with Josh. Josh was really open to my opinion and we talked about it a lot, but in the end, it was his decision.”

Donny Scolaro said the most important thing that he did for his son coming up as a player was being present and supportive.

Donny (right) and Jonah Scolaro (left). (Photo provided)

“I’ve been a coach my whole life, but once Jonah got to be 13, I let other people coach him and was just a dad,” he said. “The biggest thing is being there. If you kid wants to play ball, take him to the field and play with him. It doesn’t matter whether you know anything about it or not.”

The age of social media has certainly changed college athletics from the way things were when Andrew Vassell and Frederick Brown were players. Criticisms and cheap shots at teams, players and coaches are more easily visible than ever before. Brown has been very active on social media and was recently critical of those mocking the injury history of transferring offensive lineman Landon Dickerson, who is also from North Carolina.

“I actually bite my tongue quite a bit,” Brown said. “I do enjoy the engagement and I always want people to think objectively. I’m always going to be the individual who sees the positives in things. Someone needs to step up and defend these kids.

“With Landon, he’s played against or with Josh for a really long time; he’s a great young man and he comes from a great family,” Brown said. “That’s just a critical area for me when it comes to injuries, that’s something you don’t mess with.”

When FSU basketball was off to a 1-4 start in ACC play last season, Vassell said he did see some posts critical of the program. In general, he said, social media isn’t a problem.

“When you don’t understand the game and know of the injuries, there’s some ignorance that is out there,” Andrew Vassell said. “Overall, it doesn’t affect me.”

Donny Scolaro added that the parents often see shots taken at their sons or daughters who play collegiate sports. He added that at the games, parents also overhear things being said about their children during a rough play or outing.

“It actually eats at us a lot,” he said. “Parents definitely talk about it. You try not to click on certain things, but we do see it and hear it. We feel it and not just for our kids, but for parents of the other team, too.”

In the era of social media and with the NCAA authoring more liberal transfer rules in recent years, student-athletes often receive criticism for looking to continue their career elsewhere or questioning the allocations of funds in what is now a $1 billion industry at the NCAA. Often times, they are labeled as entitled or unwilling to compete. Parents say that’s quite the misnomer.

“Josh’s story is one with a dad who rarely missed a practice,” Frederick Brown said. “Josh has been the kid who has had a lot handed to him. Even though he came from that type of upbringing, he’s always been respectful, driven and hard-working.”

Josh (left) and Frederick Brown (right). (Photo provided)

Frederick Brown noted that virtually every other student and every other person in the workforce has the chance to seek other opportunities. In those cases, he said, criticism is rare.

“These kids — that’s all they know is competing,” Brown said. “Kids at Florida State usually have 20 or 30 offers. How do you get to place like Florida State if you’re not willing to compete? In the real world, when things aren’t working for us, we seek other opportunities. I think the transfer portal evens the playing field.”

Donny Scolaro said one of the bigger misconceptions is that student-athletes were simply recipients of natural athleticism or skill.

“People think it’s just a lot of natural God-given ability and a lot of it is,” he said. “But the kids who get to this level really put in a lot of work. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be here.”

Andrew Vassell said that misconceptions largely come from people who never played collegiate athletics. Vassell noted that with practice, study hall, travel and classes, free time in scarce.

“If you haven’t done it, you don’t really understand it,” Vassell said. “As a student-athlete, there’s so much that goes in.”

While a father of a student-athlete playing at a high level can have its stress, Brown, Scolaro and Vassell said the experience has been more enjoyable than not.

“Florida State has been great,” Vassell said. “Devin has been working really hard and I’m excited to see what FSU basketball does next year with the new additions.”

“At this level, you’ve got to take the good with the bad,” Scolaro said. “We’re definitely fortunate. We love it.”

Although Josh Brown’s football career has not turned out the way he had hoped to this point, Frederick Brown said he was happy with his son’s decision to stay at FSU.

“Hopefully, this year works out, but through it all, Josh has been a real stand-up kid,” he said. “I know he’ll have plenty of opportunities after he walks across that stage next summer.”

Mike Ferguson is the editor of The Daily Nole. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeWFerguson. Like The Daily Nole on Facebook. To pitch an idea, author a post or to learn more about The Daily Nole, email Mike Ferguson at

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