Lewisville Football

Return of a Lion king: Brown coaching Lewisville DBs

bmccormick@heraldonline.comAugust 14, 2013 

Instead of defending NFL passes, Sheldon Brown is helping Lewisville High School players to do the same.

BRET MCCORMICK — bmccormick@heraldonline.com

  • Lewisville secondary will need Brown’s experience

    Lewisville’s top two players in 2012, Mac Means and Qua Walls, both graduated, taking with them over 2,000 yards of offense and 40 touchdowns. But the two also alternated possessions patrolling the Lions’ secondary. With them gone, senior Michael Spence has emerged as a leading voice. Freshman Mike Hill will start at one corner and KeJuan Stradford, a junior, will start on the opposite side. Obbie Sarduy will play a spur position similar to what South Carolina employs. Though three of the four likely starters didn’t play on the team last year Mitchell and Brown see potential in the group, especially Hill, who Brown says has an NCAA build as a ninth-grader.

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    Bret McCormick

A whistle sounds. The quarterback drops three steps before flicking a pass to a receiver darting by 11-year NFL defensive back Sheldon Brown. Normally, Brown would make a play on the ball, or at least give the pass-catcher a firm pop across the midsection.

But this is just weird: He claps.

For the first August in the past 11 years, Brown isn’t plowing through an NFL preseason training camp. Instead, he’s working the sidelines for his alma mater, coaching Lewisville High School’s defensive backs.

“I’m at a stage in my life where my kids are important and I need to be with them as much as I can,” Brown said Wednesday before Lewisville scrimmaged Mid-Carolina and Westminster Catawba.

Brown, who starred at seemingly every position for Bennie McMurray’s Lewisville teams from 1993 to ’96, has not officially retired from professional football. He indicated that he had offers from other NFL teams but none that after 11 years and 26 career interceptions seemed worth the trouble.

Lewisville head coach Will Mitchell knew there was a possibility that Brown would be able to help the Lions this year, but didn’t want to get too far ahead with NFL contracts still being mulled.

“After being at a few practices with us, we sat down and talked about his situation,” Mitchell said. “If he gets that phone call, great. Until then, he’s told me he’s gonna be with us all year.”

As Brown himself pointed out, every day away from the game puts him a step closer to official retirement. In the meantime, Mitchell was delighted to add two coaches in Brown and former Chester standout and University of Kentucky player Gene McCaskill “who have gone out and got a degree, been eligible to play college football. There’s been a lot of athletes on par with them or better, who never made it out of Chester County.”

Brown annually returned to the area during the NFL offseason, and now lives fulltime in Lake Wylie. Being at home has always been important to the former South Carolina Gamecock, especially now that he can spend more time with his parents, wife Jenny, and kids Dion and Simone.

“My heart was always here,” Brown said.

He’s also spending quality time with another 30 or so kids who could use his guidance.

“I know these kids can relate to me because I’m homegrown.”

Brown thinks the fact that he’s from Chester County – that he won a state championship with the Lions – is more important for the Lewisville kids than his NFL pedigree.

“I’m not gonna sit out here and tell every kid they’re going to the NFL,” he said. “I’m trying to teach them situations about not only football, but life, and how this games helps you become a better person.”

That happens by listening and being willing to accept wisdom, advice and critiques. That’s something Brown was never shy about offering in the NFL, and the reason he didn’t take up any of the offers he received after last season. Joining a team late in preseason would’ve made it difficult for Brown to be the vocal leader he likes to be.

“You really don’t want to go in as a straggler, because at that point it’s like, ‘Ugh, are these guys gonna really listen to me anyway?’ ”

Brown has willing ears in the Lions’ secondary. Lewisville senior Obbie Sarduy said the best thing about having an NFL player around has been the next-level techniques he’s taught, including footwork nuances such as different inside turns used in man-to-man and zone coverages.

“You practice with him and it makes the game situations so much easier,” said Sarduy, a first-year player.

Mitchell has been impressed with McCaskill and Brown’s ability to convey skills and abilities that come naturally for college and NFL-level players to teenagers with limited football experience.

“I feel like I’ve been doubly blessed because both of them have been able to translate their knowledge in a way young men can understand it.”

Not all of the wisdom shared is football-focused. One of Brown’s messages to the teenagers is “help people help you.”

“A lot of people helped him,” said Sarduy. “Lewisville having a good community, anybody has the possibility to go somewhere.”

Brown is the walking proof after suiting up for the Philadelphia Eagles for seven years, before spending the last three seasons in Cleveland. Brown said it didn’t feel weird to not be in an NFL camp, especially after 11 tough years. On a football field with bales of hay next door, Brown is right where he wants to be.

“Without this place, I wouldn’t have become the person I am.”

Bret McCormick •  329-4032. Twitter: @BretJust1T

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