STEPHENVILLE – A childhood dream officially morphed into reality for former Texan track and field star Anterius Brown this week.
Indeed, Brown – one of the greatest 400m runners to have touched down on Oscar Frazier Memorial Track – signed a professional contract with the Michigan-based North American Track and Field League (NATFL) on Monday.
“It means a lot,” Brown said. “All the hard work I’ve been putting in – a few doubts came in – but I just stuck with it, and I just prayed and prayed on it. I’m just really blessed and thankful, man. When you put a lot of hard work into something, it’s nice to see it pay off.”
Inking a professional deal while track and field events at the 2020 Olympics are in full swing is particularly apt for Brown. His ultimate goal is to represent the United States at the World Athletics Championships or the Summer Olympic Games.
“It’s always been a dream,” he said. “I’ve been watching USA Track and Field since I was a kid. I’ve been looking up to all those athletes and was like, ‘Hey, that’s what I want to do.”
Brown was particularly tuned into the men’s 400m hurdles final on Tuesday, where Norway’s Karsten Warholm claimed the gold medal by shattering his own world record in 45.94 seconds. He departed Tarleton as the program’s indoor school record holder in the 400m (47.24) and 4x400m relay (3:13.30) but got part of his start in track and field as a hurdler. The Dallas native competed in the 300m hurdles in eighth grade and later, the 400m hurdles as a freshman at Duncanville High School.
The shift in focus toward events besides his own mirrors Brown’s training plan for the coming months. Brown is working on increasing his foot speed, in part by running the 100m and 200m dashes.
He has trained in Dallas since the conclusion of the 2021 outdoor season in May. Brown will now fly to Michigan next week for two weeks of meetings and other onboarding activities. Brown estimates his first professional race will be in January 2022.
The NATFL was founded in February by a group of current and former professional competitors and aims to give younger athletes increased opportunities to race professionally. Including Brown, between 200-300 athletes have already joined the NATFL.
A former teammate first clued Brown in on the possibility of joining the NATFL. Brown spent his freshman season at Alcorn State before transferring to Tarleton in 2017. There he met Jonathon Sawyer, who earned two sets of All-American credentials this spring in the outdoor 400m and 4x400m relay at Southeastern Louisiana. The duo trained together at Alcorn State and reconnected in March at the 93rd Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays. After learning Sawyer was involved with the NATFL, Brown looked up his splits and his interest in joining steadily increased.
The Texas Relays were one of the high points of Brown’s decorated four-year career in Stephenville. He led Tarleton to a sixth-place finish in the 4x400m relay in 3:12.14 – Tarleton’s fastest time in the event since 2019. In Tarleton’s Division II era, Brown was a three-time NCAA All-American, placed eighth in the 4x400m relay at the 2018 NCAA Outdoor Championships and qualified for the 2020 NCAA Indoor Championships in both the 400m and 4x400m relay.
His swan song in Purple and White, though, brought about an unforeseen obstacle. Brown battled a nagging ankle injury all spring. At the Western Athletic Conference Outdoor Championships in May, Brown fell short of his goal of winning the 400m title, finishing fifth. At times, Brown questioned whether to keep going.
“It felt like it would never go away, but I just pushed through it in the conference meet,” he said. “I gave it all I had. I just remembered from experience that I’ve been here before. You have to keep a strong mindset.”
Brown responded from the sting of disappointment in a major way. He ran the second leg of the 4x400m relay and staked Tarleton to a five-second lead at the 800-meter mark of the race. The Texans then cruised to the crown, winning the WAC championship in 3:12.67. Brown received All-WAC first team honors at the conclusion of the race and received All-WAC second team recognition for his efforts in the 400m.
He achieved milestones off the track that furthered his professional aspirations as well. Brown graduated with an undergraduate degree in business administration in May. He also became a father. Brown and his fiancé, Dani Gonzalez, have a one-year-old son, Aeson.
“I can tell you that it’s not a surprise,” Tarleton head coach Pat Ponder said of Brown turning professional. “His goal was to become a professional track and field athlete. He always had that in the back of his mind. To see what Anterius has done as a man – he’s a dad, so he’s juggling schedules and did that very well – he’s very goal-oriented and achieves his goals. I’m super excited. That’s very exciting for Tarleton to see an athlete move forward and continue toward his aspirations.
“He’s going to have to be patient,” Ponder continued, “he’s going to have to be persistent, and he’s going to have to build a good team around him. But if he does that, he’ll be fine.”
The opportunity to represent Tarleton on the big stage is not lost on Brown. He credits Ponder for being with him “every step of the way.” The 32nd-year head coach and Brown have a strong relationship, as Ponder also coached Brown’s uncle.
Brown hopes his journey now inspires and paves a path forward for other Tarleton track and field athletes.
“That just gives me chills,” he said. “I always wanted to have an impact on other athletes, still having that Tarleton blood in me. It will be so amazing, putting Tarleton on the map.”