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Former Mercer football player paints cleats for NFL players

Caleb Brown hung up the cleats and picked up the paintbrush. Now, he produces art for high-profile clients.

MACON, Ga. — In the NFL the last couple of weeks, there have been some special cleats on the feet of a few players for the NFL's "My Cause My Cleats" campaign, highlighting charities, non-profits and causes dear to the players. Someone has to paint and design those cleats, and one such artist came right out of Macon.

Growing up, former Mercer football player Caleb Brown always imagined himself on the highest stage.

"It was really 'NFL or bust,' but then you get to a certain point where you realize, 'Maybe I'm not big or fast or strong enough to play in the NFL,'" Brown said. "So, 'OK, let me be a physical therapist and see how that works.' Then that didn't work out either, so I just decided to try the painting thing, and it's worked out for me, so I'm grateful for that process."

He turned his sights from the stadium to the studio painting portraits. He's worked with high profile celebrities like Kirk Franklin and Migos, as well as athletes like Jalen Hurts, but his NFL dreams were realized on a very different kind of canvas.

"There's a guy named Mack Wilson, he played at Alabama.That's where we met. I did a few paintings for him. When he got drafted by the Browns, obviously he's a guy who loves his swag, so there first thing he says is, 'Hey, man, I'm gonna need you to do some cleats for me,'" Brown said.

Brown said he's done about 9 pair of cleats for Wilson, the latest being his Kulture City pair. Kulture City is Wilson's choice to highlight inclusion for people with disabilities for the NFL's My Cause My Cleats campaign.

The latest pair of cleats are for Pittsburgh Steeler, Mike Hilton, bringing awareness to Crohn's disease. He said painting cleats can be meticulous.

"You have to kind of be very detail oriented, because again, if you decide to skip any steps or be lazy at any point, it can really wreck everything," he said.

The details are worth it. For Brown, nothing beats seeing his work on the world's biggest stage.

"It's a Monday night art show, it's a Sunday night art show. Forget Sunday night football, it's an art show. Because literally there's artwork of mine on Mack Wilson's feet, on Mike Hilton's feet, on Christian Kirksey's (of the Cleveland Browns) feet and so it's really cool because it's like man that's crazy," Brown said.

If you want to commission Brown for a piece - cleats, portrait or otherwise you can do so at calebscanvas.com or check out his work on Instagram @CalebsCanvas. 

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