By LARRY VAUGHT
For Tom Brown, Monday was the “best day of the last two weeks” because his son, Neal, was officially named the new offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach at Kentucky.
It had been a stressful two weeks not only for Neal Brown as he weighed an offer from Kentucky coach Mark Stoops along with potential chances to be head coach at Louisiana Tech or Southern Mississippi, but also for his family here in Boyle County.
“It’s a relief to have it over and know what is going on,” said Tom Brown. “I don’t know the particulars of the contract at all. I do know that he was pleased with it. He felt like it was a good contract for him.
“Today was pretty calm. I had a few texts with congratulations and things like that. A couple of calls from family members. Not like last week at all when I actually had to turn my phone off one day and part of another day. Today was not bad at all. Maybe now I can finally get some sleep.”
Neal Brown’s success at Texas Tech the last three years — In each of Brown’s three seasons Texas Tech has ranked in the nation’s top 10 teams in passing offense, top 15 in total offense and top 25 in scoring offense — made him a target for various jobs and the speculation intensified when it became obvious he was Stoops’ top choice at UK.
“He enjoyed Lubbock (Texas). That wasn’t an issue. He had been thinking about leaving and with coach (Tommy) Tuberville leaving (for Cincinnati) pushed it over the top. He likes Stoops. Liked his vision, liked the way the program is going to go. He may have had another chance to turn down the opportunity to come home. Not often in one’s chosen career do you get to be at home and at your home university for any length of time. This is a good time in his life and his family’s life.”
Neal Brown came home to Boyle County Sunday to attend his family’s annual Christmas party. Close to 50 family members were there, including Mike Wilder.
“First of all, we did not know Neal was even coming until Tom received a text from him about 12:30. His flight was supposed to get into Lexington at 4:45 p.m., but he was able to get an earlier flight that got here at 12:45,” Wilder said. “All we knew was he was to meet with UK officials some time Sunday afternoon.
“At this time, we did not know what his decision was, and this included his parents and sister who were at our home. Needless to say, this made for some anxious times for myself and many of the ‘True Blue’ family present. Peggy, Neal’s mother, had already threatened us within an inch of our lives if we brought the subject up. When Neal arrived he was greeted with the normal hugs and kisses. We did discuss the situation only after Neal brought it up.
“We did know he had interviewed with Southern Miss and Louisiana Tech for the head coaching jobs and he did say the interviews went well, but he had not made a decision. Neal was a very humble young man, as he went to each of the family members and had something to say to each. After a very enjoyable visit, Neal and his mother, dad and sister went home for some talking.”
Tom Brown said all the family members “were pretty good and didn’t bombard” his son with Kentucky questions. Neither did Tom Brown.
To be honest, we talked in general terms. It was basically what has happened on each decision he has made in his career. I have told him that he has got to make the decision himself and that it did not make any difference what I wanted or Peggy wants or (his sister) Beth wants. Now it is what he and (his wife) Brooke and their girls want.At his childrens’ age, one is 4 and one is 2, he felt like this was great time in their lives to be here. Plus, he is the eternal optimist and believes UK can win.”
So does his family.
Wilder says they have all been “die-hard UK fans” and that he took many trips to away games when Neal Brown played at UK.
“We cant wait to make trips now that he is coaching. We are already making plans,” Wilder said.
He cited UK’s season-opening game in Nashville where he’ll hang out with Boyle County native Ashley Gorley, a successful song writer.
“Mandy, Ashley’s wife, is Neal’s cousin. Another cousin, former Boyle County standout football player and retired Washington County football coach Lee Glasscock, is undergoing chemo (therapy) for throat cancer. He was here (Sunday) and made it known that his whole family would be making arrangements for tickets for all games. For Danville/Boyle County football fans, it will be an exciting time similar to when Jacob Tamme was playing at Kentucky.”
Kentucky won Tamme’s last three years and went to bowl games each year. Tom Brown says his son believes that can happen again even though the Cats have had three straight losing seasons.
“He is a very confident person. I am very proud he is not an arrogant person. He believes that what he is doing will result in good things,” Tom Brown said. “He really likes Stoops and really feels like UK can be headed in the right direction. I just think he felt like this was the right time to make this move.”
Wilder says family and friends will be able to withstand the scrutiny Neal Brown will get as UK’s offensive coordinator, too.
“I don’t believe there will a lot of pressure on family and friends, unless there begins to be negative comments about his coaching ability,” Wilder said. “And as Tom told someone yesterday, ‘Wilder and I are getting too old to fight.’”