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ELKHART LAKE, Wis. (AP) — Brandon Brown wanted a way to change the narrative behind the “Let’s go, Brandon” message after his first career NASCAR victory inadvertently fostered a chant that has been used to insult President Joe Biden.

Brown found that new message thanks to the family of an 8-year-old child with autism.

Brandon Brundidge of Cottage Grove, Minnesota, was on a spring-break trip to Houston in March and saw signs with the “Let’s go, Brandon” slogan. Brundidge believed the signs were meant to encourage him. He consequently started trying activities he’d never attempted before, such as learning to swim and removing the training wheels from his bicycle.

His mother, Sheletta Brundidge, used that story to write a children’s book titled, “Brandon Spots His Sign.” Brown had the cover of Brundidge’s book on the hood of his Camaro for his Xfinity Series race Saturday at Road America.

“To have this come through was like that breakthrough moment for us,” Brown said. “This can be positive. This can be good. It doesn’t have to be hateful or divisive.”

This divisiveness had started after Brown earned his first career NASCAR victory last October.

The crowd at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama chanted “F— Joe Biden” during the winner’s post-race interview. NBC Sports reporter Kelli Stavast incorrectly told Brown the fans were chanting, “Let’s go, Brandon.”

From that point, “Let’s go, Brandon,” became a rallying cry for Biden critics, with signs bearing that message popping up all over. Brown unintentionally found himself in the middle of the firestorm that surrounded these chants.

“I’ve just been hopeful that I could make it a positive, I could have my name back and not have it be so divisive and scary, where it wouldn’t be a political statement for my friends and family to cheer me on during a race,” Brown said.

That’s where the Brundidge family stepped in.

Sheletta Brundidge is the mother of four children, and three of them have autism. She has written children’s books focusing on each of them. She said that Brandon often dealt with social anxiety.

That changed after she saw all the “Let’s go, Brandon” signs and assumed people were cheering him on. He suddenly had a whole new attitude and wasn’t nearly as shy about trying new things.

“He literally wanted us to put flags in front of the house (saying), ’Let’s Go Brandon,” Sheletta Brundidge recalled. “I’m like, ‘That’s not going to happen. We’re not putting these flags in front of the house.”

Brown learned about this book from his mother and invited the Brundidge family to Road America. They met in person for the first time this weekend, and the two Brandons became fast friends.

“It feels like I have a twin brother but who’s older than me,” Brandon Brundidge said.

The Brundidges were giving out copies of “Brandon Spots His Sign” at Road America. The book’s cover design decorated Brown’s car, though he was knocked out of Saturdays’ race after getting caught up in a multi-car wreck that caused him to get examined and released from the infield care center.

Finally, someone found a way for the “Let’s go, Brandon” chant to unite rather than divide.

“I’m sorry for what you went through all of this past year,” Sheletta Brundidge told Brown on Saturday. “I know it’s been horrible. But I’m so glad it happened because this child would not have this breakthrough (otherwise). He still would be afraid to ride his bike without training wheels. He’s literally walking up to kids and passing out this book. He would have never done that (before).”

___

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Seahawks Pro Bowler Signs Two-Year Deal With New Team

Getty New York Jets free-agent target Duane Brown earned his largest contract with the Seattle Seahawks.

The Seattle Seahawks drafted a pair of offensive linemen in the 2022 NFL Draft, taking Charles Cross and Abraham Lucas with two of the team’s earlier picks. That made it easier to justify not paying one of the team’s reigning Pro Bowlers, who is leaving for the AFC.

With offensive tackle Mekhi Becton suffering a potentially season-ending knee injury, the New York Jets have officially signed former Seahawks Pro Bowl offensive tackle Duane Brown, according to ESPN NFL insider Adam Schefter.

Sources: Five-time Pro-Bowl OT Duane Brown is signing with the New York Jets, who lost OT Mekhi Becton earlier this week to a likely season-ending knee injury.

— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) August 11, 2022

Schefter also added that the deal is for two seasons. Brown will have a chance at immediately competing for a starting job on the Jets offensive line, but he’ll be going against another former Seahawks offensive tackle George Fant for that starting gig.

Brown had been listed as one of the best remaining free agents still available, but that list got a little bit shorter with the Jets bringing in the 36-year-old tackle.

Duane Brown’s Football Career

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Although he’s nearing the end of his football career, Duane Brown has been one of the most consistent offensive tackles over the last two decades, going all the way back to his college playing days.

Coming out of Hermitage High School in Richmond, Virginia, Brown was actually a 3-star tight end with offers to play for Maryland, Virginia Tech and Virginia. He ultimately decided to play for the Hokies, where he switched to offensive tackle halfway through his time with head coach Frank Beamer.

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Brown quickly caught on to his new position, and after a strong senior season he was taken by the Houston Texans in the first round of the 2008 NFL Draft. While the Texans struggled to be a consistent contender, Brown had a strong nine and a half seasons with the franchise. He left Houston with a first-team All-Pro selection, a second-team All-Pro selection, and three Pro Bowl appearances.

The Texans eventually traded Brown to the Seahawks halfway through the 2017 season. He’s made another two Pro Bowl selections, including one just last season in 2021. What has stood out throughout Brown’s career has been his availability, playing in 203 games since 2008.

Approaching his 37th birthday, it’s unclear how much more football Brown will be able to play. However, he has a real chance at being a starter once again in 2022 for the Jets.

Who Will Start at Offensive Tackle for Seattle?

The Seahawks won’t have their reigning Pro Bowler at left tackle anymore, but after a strong 2022 NFL Draft, the team’s offensive line should be in pretty good shape.

Charles Cross was the team’s first draft pick this year, going ninth overall. A former 5-star recruit, Cross was a stud at left tackle for the Mississippi State Bulldogs. With 34.5-inch arms and great foot quickness, Cross is tremendously talented and shouldn’t have a problem protecting the blind side of whoever is playing under center.

In-state draft pick Abraham Lucas will be competing for the starting right tackle job as well. He primarily played on the right side for the Washington State Cougars in college, and possesses a strong football IQ to handle twists and stunts with the technique to avoid getting beat.

The Seahawks made an effort to get younger on the offensive line this offseason, and fans will be keeping a close eye on the trenches to see if that plan works out in 2022 and beyond.

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