Thursday, January 09, 2014

Former NFL linebacker excited to be coaching at UConn

When his NFL career was winding to a close Vincent Brown figured it was time to put football in his rear-view mirror.

Brown, who was taken by the New England Patriots with the second round of the 1988 NFL draft after an impressive career at Mississippi Valley State. He went onto make 811 tackles in eight seasons with the Patriots. He had two seasons with four sacks and had seven of his 10 career interceptions in his final two seasons. When he was cut by the Patriots after the 1995 season, Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells believed that Brown would be an excellent coach if he chose to go that way.

"When I retired from the Patriots in 1995 I had no part of coaching out and working with my son who is 5/6 years old I realized there is something to this of being able to teach," Brown said.

"When I was cut by the Patriots, Coach Parcells told me ‘you have the ability to influence others and you have to find a way to use it’ and it took me a few years to realize what he was saying. It was been rewarding ever since."

After a year as a graduate assistant at Virginia in 2007, he followed former Virginia assistant coach Mike London to Richmond before returning to Virginia when London was hired as Virginia's head coach. Four years later he made the decision to leave to become the linebackers coach and co-defensive coordinator at UConn.

"It was very difficult to leave because my wife and I, we loved the community we were in but I also recognized the opportunity to work with quality people they don’t always come around in our profession," Brown said. "I know Bob Diaco. I had a chance to spend time with him during the 2007 season. He is very passionate, energetic, very detail orientated and his philosophy on playing the game and my philosophy on coaching the game are very closely aligned. I believe in his vision of what he wants to get accomplished and I want to be part of helping shape that."

UConn will lose top linebacker Yawin Smallwood, the Huskies' leading tackle in each of the last two seasons, as he chose to enter the NFL and bypass his senior season. Ryan Donohue is also moving on. Jefferson Ashiru was fifth on UConn with 58 tackles and tied for third with eight tackles for loss. Reuben Frank had two tackles after moving from fullback to defensive end and there's a chance he could be shifted to linebacker when UConn uses a 3-4 defense. Graham Stewart, Marquise Vann and Brandon Steg also saw some time last season.

Diaco knows that UConn's young linebacking corps will be eager to listen to a coach who had as much succcess as a player as Brown enjoyed.

"You can’t hide from the fact that is a big reason why he is here," Diaco said. "He did it at the highest level, he does it with class, he does it with hard work, he does it with integrity and in that room and he has great credibility because he did it, he is going to tell me how to do it because he knows because he did it."

Brown has spoken to some of the players he will be coaching and the opportunity to work with them during spring practice can't come quickly enough.

"Just looking at how we have here, I am excited about working with some of these kids," Brown said. "The combination to work under Bob Diaco, to work with Anthony Poindexter and I know intimately know what his DNA is about regarding working with kids, it just bring a level of excitement that you need to keep it rolling.

"Change is difficult for a lot of people but then in brings about some exciting opportunities, being able to wipe the slate clean and nobody has opinions and notions on these kids, you just go by what you see and I think that excites the kids that ‘I am going to get a fair shot to go out and play.’"

The hard-hitting Brown earned the "undertaker" nickname for his relentless play and high work ethic is what he will be asking for from his players.

"That is one of the things I truly believe in is that effort can make up for a lot of things," Brown said. "If you just play hard you have a chance and you add in being smart to the mix, you add being a tough guy to the mix you are going to be successful."

According to a report by the Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Miss., Mississippi State strength and conditioning coach Matt Balis is taking the same job at UConn.

Balis worked with Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen for the last five years and also worked with Mullen for two years in Utah where Mullen was an assistant coach.

Balis was the Director of Strength and Conditioning at Virginia in 2007 and 2008 when Diaco was an assistant coach there.

During his appearance on Geno Auriemma's radio show on Monday night, Diaco said "there is nobody more important than that hire" when discussing the strength and conditioning job.

Also, the site reported that former UConn defensive coordinator Hank Hughes interviewed for the same position at Cincinnati and former defensive assistant Darrell Perkins has interviewed at New Mexico.


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