My first meeting with Neal Brown

Published 3:00 am Thursday, January 10, 2019

I still remember the day that I met Neal Brown. It didn’t go the way you might be expecting.

I was a junior at Troy University when Larry Blakeney left the program and Brown was hired to fill the position.

I was sitting at the dining hall on campus with my longtime friend Garrett Peek, who had come to Troy on scholarship to play defensive tackle for the Trojans. It was the day after Brown’s press conference.

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“Have you met the new coach yet?” I asked Garrett. “Yeah, he came in and talked to us yesterday. He’s going to be good.”

I grew up an Alabama fan – my dad is an avid Crimson Tide fan and I followed suit. Most birthdays and Christmases I would inevitably get an Alabama shirt from some member of the family, so a large chunk of my wardrobe at that time consisted of Alabama t-shirts.

After joining the Trojan family, I began becoming a Troy fan too, but those were tough times to get acclimated to the fandom – the team had a knack for losing close games and breaking your heart. I did not yet have much Troy apparel.

So it’s no surprise that as I was sitting and talking to Garrett, I was wearing one of these Alabama shirts.

I never even saw Brown walking up behind us. I just felt a tap on my shoulder and heard “You don’t have any Troy shirts?”

He didn’t stop to chat – I don’t think he even acknowledged Garrett, who he may not have even recognized yet at that point honestly. He didn’t even make eye contact. He just kept on moving.

That seems like a long time ago now. I never got to see the Trojans in their current lorry as a student. It took Brown a season to bring us into our current run.

Fortunately I stuck around Troy and have had the joy of seeing him coach for the last three years and turn the Troy program into something special, competing and winning against the likes of LSU and Nebraska.

I had the joy of seeing the LSU win in person in Baton Rouge, probably the highlight of my time as a Trojan fan thus far, and it’s the mindset and mentality that Brown brought to the program that made that win possible.

Neal Brown made it truly fun to be a Trojan fan again, and we can all thank him for that. He gave us all something to be proud of.

I certainly have more Troy shirts in my closet now.