Brown achieves career goal with Ring of Fire honor

C.J Brown

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He can’t remember when it was, but former Chicago Fire defender C.J. Brown just started dancing in front of Section 8, Chicago’s supporter section, after a big win sometime early in his Fire career.

He had no idea the fans would take to it like they did. The “C.J. dance” became a fixture after wins, and Brown became a fan favorite.

“The fans liked it, and I felt like I could give that to them after wins,” Brown said on a conference call with reporters on Tuesday. “It actually turned out really cool. At the end of the day, you’re playing for yourself, you’re playing for your family, you’re playing for your club. But none of that is possible if the fans don’t come. I always appreciated them.”

The Fire announced on Tuesday that they will induct Brown in the club’s Ring of Fire hall of fame later this season after 13 years spent thrilling the fans and proving himself as one of the most reliable players in the club’s history.

Brown was a regular in the Fire’s starting lineup from 1998 to 2010 when he played in a club-record 296 games, which ranks him third all-time in MLS for most appearances as a part of one team.

He’ll be inducted on May 9 when the Chicago play Real Salt Lake, for whom Brown is an assistant coach.

“It’s truly an honor to be a part of that,” Brown said. “It’s emotional, it’s rewarding. I have nothing but thanks and gratitude for everyone that thought I should be a part of that.”

Brown was one of three players, along with Chris Armas and Zach Thornton, who was a part of the Fire’s MLS Cup Championship in 1998, the Supporters’ Shield in 2003, and all four of the Fire’s US Open Cup championships.

He also won the Fire’s Humanitarian of the Year award three times for his work with the Chicago Fire Foundation, Teammates for Kids and running a youth soccer academy among, other charitable functions.

“I wanted people to know me for not only being a good player,” Brown said, “but for being a good person.”

Brown was the last remaining Fire original on the team when he retired in 2010. He’ll be the seventh induction into the Ring of Fire, which also includes Armas, former Chicago and US national team head coach Bob Bradley and current Fire head coach Frank Klopas.

“I always told myself I wanted to make an impression,” Brown said.  “When you see the Ring of Fire, you see special people like Frank Klopas, Chris Armas and guys like Bob Bradley up on a board. I wanted my name up there.”