Former UGA star Brown finding his stride as Mocs' assistant
CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- With a playing resume that includes scoring 23 touchdowns at a Southeastern Conference school and a three-year stint in the NFL, Thomas Brown's name should resonate with college running backs who grew up in the South.
But the former University of Georgia star was just like any other new coach when he arrived at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga last month.
"I just said 'Hey, Coach. Nice to meet you' and that was it. I didn't think anything of it," said Mocs' running back J.J. Jackson, who grew up in Marietta, Ga. "Then later that night I texted (offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield) and was like, 'What was his name again? I think he looked familiar."
It was the same for fellow UTC tailback and Marietta-native Chris Awuah.
"I met him in the weight room and then texted my brother to tell him who my new coach was," Awuah recalled. "He texted back and said 'You don't know who he is?'"
Brown is not one to boast about his 2,646 career rushing yards as a Bulldog, nor his professional stops with the Atlanta Falcons and Cleveland Browns. However, he is eager to use what he learned through those experiences to make Chattanooga's ground game better.
"I want to bring the best out of guys," Brown said before Monday's practice, which was his fifth as UTC's new running backs coach. "One of the reasons I wanted to get into coaching was to transfer the knowledge I had back into guys playing the position and mold them."
Head coach Russ Huesman said hiring Brown was a no-brainer when previous running backs coach Jamaal Fobbs left for Liberty.
"We liked what people had said about his work ethic while he was playing and what he did at Georgia while he was there," Huesman said. "That been there, done that type of thing is something our backs look up to. I'm sure they'll listen more intently.
"It doesn't always have to be like that for a position coach, but I think running back is a spot where it definitely helps to have a coach that has played there."
Of course, it also helps that Brown still looks like he could play right now after spending the past year as the strength coach at his alma mater.
"As much as I don't want to say it, he'd probably take my position," Jackson said. "He's just a hard-working cat. He's a strong dude."
While Brown enjoyed bulking up the Bulldogs along their run to the 2011 SEC East Division title, he longed for more responsibility and hands-on teaching opportunities. Under NCAA guidelines, strength coaches are limited in what they can do on the field and in practices, forcing Brown to take more notes than he gave.
"There's only so much I could be involved with on the field, so I just tried to learn as much as I could from those guys," he said, citing UGA running backs coach Brian McClendon as one of his closest friends. "I kind of had a mental bank in the back of my head so that when I did get a chance to be a coach I could pull from it."
Those tricks have already come in handy in the first week of Chattanooga's spring camp.
The Mocs' backfield is wide-open entering 2012, with as many as four different running backs realistically getting a shot to win the starting role.
Brown is excited about having that kind of competition in his first year as a position coach, and he thinks it will make help both he and his players continue to grow.
"I'm kind of learning on the fly," he said. "I kind of approach the coaching profession as I did when I was a player. I'm going to work my butt off every day and hope for great results.
"I'm a demanding coach, but I think we have a very talented group of guys and I'm going to try to bring the best out of them."