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Former Neville football coach, Charlie Brown, dies at 82

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Written by: Krysten Oliphant

The Neville community — and arguably the entire state — lost a great friend Monday when longtime football coach Charlie Brown died at the age of 82.

Brown, who had recently received a pacemaker and was recovering from heart problems, died at his home around 2 p.m.

And he spent his last hours doing what he loved. The former Neville baseball and football coach had visited his alma mater earlier in the day to check on the construction of the new fieldhouse that will bear his name before coming home to work in his beloved garden early in the afternoon.

Word of the loss spread throughout the community immediately.

“It’s really a tough loss for the Neville community,” Neville football coach Mickey McCarty said. “He meant so much to so many people through the years here at Neville and so much to football in Northeast Louisiana, and across the state for that matter.”

In 30 years as the Tigers’ head coach, Brown won three state titles in six championship game appearances and also won 11 district titles. As an assistant under legendary coach Bill Ruple before that, he helped lead Neville to four more state championships in five appearances, and he coached the Tiger baseball team from 1956-62, winning seven district titles and four state trophies. He finished his head coaching career with a 263-66-6 record at the school he also attended as a student, including Louisiana Superdome appearances in his final two seasons in 1991 and ’92.

Brown was inducted into the Louisiana High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame, the Louisiana High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame and the Louisiana Sports Writers Association Hall of Fame.

Gary Roberts, who played under Brown before coaching with him for 18 years, said Brown was more than just a coach to his players.

“Wins and losses were important, but I think the greatest strength was he taught you how to be a man,” Roberts said. “You may not like everything that he told you, but you respected it and you respected him. He just helped you mature, to be responsible, and there’s a lot of young men in this area who owe a whole lot to Coach.”

(Page 2 of 4)


Brown’s players were not the only ones who looked up to him. Former Neville assistant coach Mike Vallery was hired away from Wossman by Brown and worked with him from 1978-84 before taking over the program at Ouachita Parish and then at Kilgore High School in Texas.

He was with Brown for the state championships in 1982 and ’83, and Brown was on the sideline when Vallery’s Bulldogs won the Texas Class 4A state championship in 2004.

“Not only was he my boss, but he was probably one of the closest friends that I had, even while I was on the opposite sidelines,” Vallery said. “He’s touched so many people through the years, but all I can say is he couldn’t have touched or guided anybody more than what he did with me. … Everything I’ve done in my coaching career has been because of him.”

Brown spent nearly every day of his life at Neville High School, even after retiring from coaching following the 1992 season.

Louisiana Tech quarterback Taylor Burch, who led the Tigers to the Class 4A state championship in 2010, said the team dedicated that state title to the coach who was on the sideline for every one of their practices and hadn’t missed a game since hanging up his whistle, although they never questioned why he was there.

“Every single day, it was just understood,” Burch said. “He just loved being a part of it and being around it every day of his life. It’s what he was.”

Burch, whose dad played for Brown, spoke with the coach most days before practice about life, family and upcoming games, and he said the message was always the same: keep pushing.

Brown was back on the floor of the Louisiana Superdome at the 2010 State Farm Prep Classic after so many years away from the championship, and he was one of the first people with whom Burch celebrated following the win against Franklinton. Brown even wrote Burch a letter for graduation.

But Brown also attended as many games in the other sports as possible, including the Tigers’ baseball and softball games this past Saturday.

“He’d become Neville High School embodied,” said Sonny Smith, who coached with Brown from 1962-95. “He was dedicated inside and out to Neville High School. … Even if he was a spectator, when he was watching baseball or softball or whatever, you could hear him talking to the umpire or to the kids. You could hear his voice, and I didn’t have to look to see who it was. I knew his voice.”

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Former Neville principal and Monroe City Schools Superintendent Sidney Seegers, who taught with Brown for several years as well, said he made sure to give every program the same attention he did football.

Seegers own son and grandsons played under Brown, and he said he never had to worry about their safety or well being — either physically or mentally — when Brown was around.

But there’s one thing about his former colleague that always struck Seegers as impressive.

“He had the most perfect handwriting,” Seegers said. “When I came back to Monroe as superintendent he wrote me a letter welcoming me back. I had seen this in the classroom, but I just thought, ‘Where in the world did he learn that kind of penmanship?'”

But Brown’s biggest impact on most people was outside the classroom, whether giving hugs to former players or students or enjoying lunch with someone who was supposed to be his archenemy.

Hall of Famer Chick Childress coached with Brown at Neville for 15 years before taking over the football program at Ruston. The rivalry between the Tigers and Bearcats was at one time ranked in the top 15 in the nation, and they beat each other in two state championships in the 1980s. But the heads of the programs were actually best friends who used to ride to work together when they lived a block apart on Fort Miro Street.

“People kind of seem to remember the rivalry more, but we actually coached together more than we did against each other,” Childress said. “We spent a lot of time together. People thought it was a rivalry where people hated each other, but no — it was a good, clean rivalry, the way it should be.”

Those who knew Brown said he treated everyone the same, whether he had just met them or known them forever, and the coach enjoyed sharing with his friends.

Neville Alumni and Friends Association Executive Director Dana Jefferson said she remembers Brown giving away the fish he loved to catch and goodies from his garden, although the gift she said she will miss most is his hugs.

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Monoe City School Board President Mickey Traweek said Brown’s giving surprised him on at least one occasion, when the two had a discussion about how much they enjoyed ice cream. They discovered while watching football practice that they shared a love of Blue Bell’s Homemade Vanilla and strawberry ice cream flavors.

“Well, lo and behold, there’s a knock on the door that afternoon, and Coach Brown had brought me a gallon of Blue Bell vanilla and strawberry,” Traweek recalled. “That’s just the type of person he was.”

He was also modest. Jefferson said Brown wasn’t the type to brag about his on-field success, despite his father-figure status with many players and students. He called his players “little ol’ rag knots” and made sure to tell them all how proud he was of them daily.

But community members also were proud of their coach, and they had hoped he would see the opening of the new fieldhouse in the coming football season.

Jefferson said the fieldhouse will mean even more now as it honors Brown, whom she said represented everything good about Neville.

“Losing him is like losing the tallest tree in the forest,” Jefferson said. “It’s going to take some of the other trees down with it. It’s going to leave a big hole.”


Written by demon53

April 12, 2011 at 2:59 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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