Brown was born in Harlem and raised in Brooklyn, New York, where he graduated from Poly Prep in 2002. He is also a member of the academic program Prep for Prep, which provides opportunities for minorities in New York City and its surrounding area to attend elite independent schools. Brown attended Amherst College, where he played football, which gave him added experience in one of his biggest roles to date. In 2008 he starred in the football film The Express where he played Ernie Davis, the first African American Heisman Trophy winner.
 Career Brown shot into the spotlight after starring opposite Sean Connery in the 2000 film Finding Forrester. He had neither professional nor amateur acting experience prior to taking this role. Brown tried out as an extra after finding a flyer hanging on a bulletin board in his school. Despite his lack of previous experience, he was given the lead role of Jamal Wallace.
In 2005, he played the role of Kenyon Stone, a basketball player for the Richmond High School Oilers in Coach Carter, starring Samuel L. Jackson. He was one of the lead roles alongside Ashanti.
Brown played Ernie Davis in the film The Express, based on the life of the former Heisman Trophy winner and Syracuse University alumnus. Production began in March 2007, and the film was released in October 2008. In 2012, he co-stars in the werewolf thriller Silver starring Dana Rashun Gray and Lee Thompson Young.
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