There have been many famous player-coaches in sports history: Bill Russell of the Boston Celtics, Pete Rose with the Cincinnati Reds, even Will Ferrell as “Jackie Moon” in the movie Semi Pro.
In our area, Luke Brown has established himself as a player and a coach, but in a different sense. Brown coaches running backs and linebackers at Northwest High School while playing semi-pro football with the West Portsmouth Tanks.
Last week, Brown coached in Northwest’s game against Chillicothe Huntington on Friday, and played for the West Portsmouth Tanks in their BCFL Championship Game against the Butler County Broncos on Saturday.
The preparation leading up to each game was a change of pace for Brown. “It’s two different mindsets,” Brown said. “For one, on Friday night I’m trying to go over things and watch film and try and tell the kids what to do. Then, Saturday night, it’s completely different and I’m trying to tell myself what to do.”
Brown has now played football for the Southern Ohio Spartans, the Portsmouth Warriors and the West Portsmouth Tanks as a semi-pro football player after graduating from Northwest in 2012.
This season with the Tanks, Brown accumulated 36 total tackles, including five for a loss. He also totaled five and a half sacks. On offense, Brown rushed for 235 yards and one touchdown.
The versatility that Brown brings to the table is something that Tanks head coach Jamie Rice was very complimentary of.
“I think we could put that guy at any position on that field and he’ll play it and he’ll play it well,” Rice said. “Certain guys just have really good football IQ, I think they see things before it happens. He’s that guy.”
When asked if he could see Brown in a coaching role down the road, Rice didn’t hesitate.
“Oh yeah,” Rice said on that prospect. “I think he wouldn’t have any trouble getting people to run through a brick wall for him. He’s just that kind of person. There’s no doubt that he would do a really, really good job,” Rice said.
While balancing his football career and a job at his family sawmill, Brown Bros. Lumber Company, Brown began coaching peewee football at Northwest three years ago. He was able to work his way up the coaching ranks rather quickly, as many saw the potential he had as a coach.
Brown caught the attention of Northwest head football coach Doug Montavon, who coached Brown when he was in eighth grade.
“The kids really respected him and liked him,” Montavon said about Brown. “He works well with them, and he’s very respectable and knowledgeable about the game.”
From there, Montavon decided to add Brown to the Mohawks coaching staff this season. Brown joined the coaching staff along with Tyler Vastine, who played with Brown in high school as a fullback. Montavon was thrilled to have former players and Northwest graduates on the sidelines with him on Friday nights.
“It’s just good to have coaches that have been around the program and know our circumstances out at Northwest because we have some different circumstances as far as a lot of the schools,” Montavon said. “It’s nice having a former player on the team and hopefully over the next several years more of the players will come back and help the program.”
Montavon said his players look up to Brown because many of them were in the stands watching when Brown was playing for the Mohawks.
“They listen to him as an adult, but they also understand that it’s something he’s went through and is going through so it’s kind of easier for them to listen and try to understand what he’s saying, due to that perspective of him being a current player and a player that they remember going to watch play,” Montavon said about Brown.
For Brown, it was a dream come true to coach at his former school.
“It’s awesome to say the least because I’ve always wanted to come back and coach high school football,” Brown said on the opportunity. “It’s always been one of my dreams.”
However, Brown has come to find out that coaching is a lot different than being a player.
“Coaching is a lot different than I thought it would be,” Brown said. “In high school, after a big loss or something like that, it hurt. When you’re coaching and you take a loss, it just tears your heart out because you’re letting the kids down. You’re not just letting yourself down, you’re letting the kids down.”
Brown hopes that Montavon and the rest of the Northwest staff are able to uplift the program. “I don’t want that to happen, and that’s why I want to change this program around,” Brown said. “I want to give the kids something to look forward to every fall, to come in with a winning season and have the confidence that they can do that.”
When it comes to coaching, Brown certainly has the right mindset for success in the field. He knows it’s not about wins or losses, but about being a mentor to his kids and a positive role model in the community.
“Being around the kids, it’s just a nice thing,” Brown said. “I want to make an impact on someone’s life. I want to give back to the place I went to school, because there’s a good group of people over here.”
Montavon knew he wouldn’t be able to pass up on a guy like Brown because of the type of person he is, and how respected his family is in the area. “It’s a local family with ties to the community,” Montavon said. “You get some of those kids through the program occasionally and you at least hope they’re going to stay involved, and he’s done that.”
Joining the coaching staff this year was a big step for Brown, but he has bigger aspirations for his future — one that involves becoming a head coach on down the road.
“Absolutely,” Brown said. “That’s one of my biggest things, I love coaching.”
Brown seems set up for success, and Montavon thinks he could potentially become a coach down the road as well.
“His big thing is trying to work whatever career he chooses around being able to coach,” Montavon said. “It’s something that he wants to be able to stay a part of, and hopefully he does. He’s been a big asset on the coaching staff. If he sticks with it, maybe one day he’ll be in my position and running the program.”
Reach Benjamin Spicer at (502)264-7318 or on Twitter @BSpicerPDT