Jackson Herald sports reporter Charles Phelps talks with Commerce head football coach Michael Brown about his time at Commerce as a student, time away from the field and motivation for his team.
(Some answers edited for space)
Phelps: What made you want to become a football coach?
Brown: I was well into my college career before I even began to consider it. Just had some opportunities open up my last year or so at Furman that allowed me to get in the weight room and work a year as a strength coach at Furman. That kind of peaked my interest in it.
Phelps: What is it like to follow in the footsteps of coach Steve Savage and Ray Lamb at Commerce?
Brown: It's an intimidating job in a lot of ways, just because of the success that those coaches have had. I was talking to coach Lamb the other day, and we were just talking about the fact that Commerce has over 600 wins as a program. He said, 'Yeah, and coach Savage and I have over 300 of those,' and I thought, 'Wow!' I've always said they cast a large shadow, not only on the program, but over me. But, in a good way, not a bad way. I've learned a lot from both of them in terms of how to push players, how to run the program, and so, they're still coaching me. They're both still my coach. There are countless times during the course of the season where I will call either coach Savage or coach Lamb and basically say, 'Help. I need help over here.' They're more than willing to do that. You've got two of the best in the business a phone call away and that is a very, very big comfort for me knowing that.
Phelps: Was football the only sport you played in high school?
Brown: I played other sports. I ran track and wrestled, but football has always been my passion, even at a young age. I've always loved the game. I've always loved the physical aspect of the game. I love the weight room. I love getting in the weight room and lifting and grinding ... I knew at a young age that I always wanted to play at the next level. That was something that was kind of a goal of mine the whole time I was in high school.
Phelps: Did you have a favorite athlete that you looked up to when you were growing up?
Brown: I did, like any other kid growing up in Georgia, when I was really young, I don't know how many times I've been Herschel Walker in the front yard. As far as people that I emulated myself after, I always looked up to the guys that played football here at Commerce ... I tell our kids all the time, 'You need to be aware. There's somebody in those lower grades in that middle school that they're watching you. Let's make sure that we're passing on the values and the traditions that we've had around here.'
Phelps: How much do you bench press?
Brown: (Laughter) Not very much anymore. I'm lucky to be able to get a workout in now ... I just, at a very young age, enjoyed lifting. I saw the benefits of it. I saw, No. 1, the strength that I gained from lifting and in turn (it) made me a better athlete. No. 2, it gave me confidence to know that I'm stronger than these guys I'm lining up against.
Phelps: What's your favorite thing about the summer?
Brown: I really enjoy spending time with my family. My kids, I really enjoy spending time with them. We try to load up and go to the mountains several times during the summer and take the boys trout fishing. My wife is very active as well. We like to load them up and just explore the mountains, find new places to hike and waterfalls to visit.
Phelps: When you're watching football on TV, do you catch yourself analyzing a game as a coach, or are you able to enjoy it as a fan?
Brown: Typically, what I'll do is I've gotten to where I watch teams that run a similar offense more than anything. Typically, what I'll do is I'll watch Navy or Army, and I've got a pen and notepad and I'm taking notes on what they're doing, just picking up ideas, drawing up formations or plays or schemes that they have. Just trying to really educate myself as to how the game's evolving and how the offense we run is evolving.
Phelps: If you were going to show your team one movie to get them motivated, what would the movie be?
Brown: (laughter) Good question. I don't know, there's some good ones out there ... You've got the classics like Braveheart, movies that depict a band of brothers in a time of war. Certainly, we're not going to war, but we are a band of brothers and we're fighting together on Friday nights. Any of those type of movies where men have knitted their hearts together and have been able to accomplish great things, those are all inspiring ... I'm a history guy, I'm a history major. I really think that words can inspire in ways that film doesn't. I'm constantly reading and looking for motivation in words, whether it be literature that was written a hundred years ago or maybe it's something that jumps out from scripture or maybe it's something I've read recently. I do a lot of reading specifically for trying to capture the essence of the human experience as it pertains to the game of football. I think kids respond to that. They really do.