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Vaught’s note: This is the first of three stories about offensive coordinator Neal Brown and his family on his return to Kentucky as he gets set to coach his first game at UK Saturday.
By LARRY VAUGHT
Javess Blue can’t remember exactly when he met Kentucky offensive coordinator Neal Brown the first time. However, it left a lasting impression on Blue, a former Texas high school standout who came to UK this year via the junior college route.
“He looked pretty young to me. I almost thought he was my wide receivers coach at first. But then I saw he had on the shades (sunglasses) and was real serious in his face and was watching me practice. I knew it was the real deal, and he is,” said Blue. “I love the attitude and motivation he gives me. Like, ‘Blue, I want you to do this.’ I listen to him and it actually sinks in my head and I go do it. That’s the motivation you need out there. He’s great.”
Brown hopes his offense can be “great” when the Wildcats open the season Saturday in Nashville against Western Kentucky. Brown’s homecoming — he was an all-state receiver at Boyle County High School and walk-on receiver at UK from 1998-2000 under Hal Mumme — has been a pleasurable ride since he left Texas Tech to join Mark Stoops’ staff at UK. But he knows that changes when the season opens.
“I think there is some eagerness no question. There is always eagerness for the first game no matter where you are at,” Brown said. “Coming home, that heightens the eagerness some more. There is a lot of anticipation. It’s a 365 day a year job for 12 opportunities (games), or 13 or 14 if you do your job well. When you get this close to the game, the kids (players) get more excited. So much goes into preparation, you can’t help but get excited when you see light at the end of the day.”
Brown and his wife, Brooke, a Boyle native, were glad to get back to Kentucky so their two daughters, Adalyn and Anslee, could be closer to family and friends.
“We are both beyond thrilled to have the opportunity to come home and share all the excitement with our families. It’s an amazing move for our daughters and we have really just tried to take advantage of every single moment with family since we’ve moved back home,” Brooke Brown said. “But as the season quickly approaches, I’m reminded that Neal was brought here to do a job. And that job is to turn this program around and get it going in the right direction.
“I’m so excited that coach Stoops has given Neal the opportunity to be part of the new era of Kentucky football. I think Neal and the whole coaching staff are excited to have a positive impact on the program and it’s even more meaningful for Neal and the other coaches that have a history here.”
Neal Brown tries not to think about how many family members and friends he has in Kentucky because he knows the bottom line is winning.
“All jobs are the same in the essence in what you are paid to do and how you do it and how you come to work every day with a purpose and goal,” Neal Brown said. “But the thing that makes this different is this is my home state, the place I started my college career and grew up being a fan. It’s more personal than any job I’ve ever had due to my history. I try to block that out and focus on the job because the nuts and bolts are the same.”
Apparently his focus has been fine based on what his players see and believe.
“I knew he was successful wherever he went and was putting a lot of points on the board. All these coaches are young guys. It helps they can come out and run around with you and be energy guys that can get you going. We enjoy him,” senior running back Raymond Sanders said. “He is going to be on you every play no matter who you are, coach, player, special teams. He is going to bring that fire and that is what you need out of your OC (offensive coordinator).
“He is going to tell you when you are doing good or bad and be in you. He wants it done. He understands it won’t always be done perfect, but he wants you to go 100 miles per hour and give the best you can.”
Junior fullback D.J. Warren likes the “high tempo” Brown brings daily.
“He brings a lot of energy and that is exactly what we need. He speaks the truth and I absolutely love him as a coach,” Warren said. “He is a great coach. There is nothing else to it. I am so glad that he decided to come here. He brings so much energy and he believes in us as a unit.”