In addition to delivering a general state-of-the-team address during a Zoom press conference on Thursday, WVU football coach Neal Brown also addressed a couple of new hires in the offseason — defensive coaches ShaDon Brown (defensive backs) and AJ Jackson (defensive line).
Both also answered questions as part of their first official media interviews as members of the Mountaineer staff.
While both are new hires, there’s nothing new about the relationship between Neal and ShaDon Brown, as the two grew up in the same area at rival high schools competing against each other. While the relationship is complimentary and positive now, to hear ShaDon Brown tell it, it hasn’t always been that way.
“Coach Brown was the biggest crap talker that I’ve ever played against,” ShaDon Brown said. “He’s a jawer a little bit.”
Alerted of that comment, Neal Brown lived up to that reputation.
“It’s been so long ago, I can’t even remember,” he said. “I do know that we won our share, how about that?”
Both were three-sport athletes in Kentucky, with ShaDon Brown attending Danville High School and Neal Brown playing for Boyle County High School, a bitter crosstown rival. The history between the two dates back to the mid-1990s, where their earliest recollections of each other begin.
“We have known each other since 1994, when his dad took over as the principal at Boyle County High School, which was a rival high school of mine,” ShaDon Brown recalled. “We competed against each other in tournaments and things of that nature and I’m sure it wasn’t as friendly back then as we are right now.
“I got to know him through that, and in a small town, most of the good athletes know each other from playing on all-star teams and that sort of thing. As we graduated and went our ways, one of his roommates in college was one of my best friends in high school, so we always stayed in touch, and when we got into our professional career we would text and call and get together in the offseason and talk football.”
As his coaching career began, one of ShaDon Brown’s earliest stops was at Boyle County High School, where Neal Brown’s father was still the principal.
“He was the guy that got me into high school football,” ShaDon Brown said. “That job was given to me and an opportunity that probably people were scratching their heads that I got it, but it was because of Tom Brown, Neal’s dad. I’ve got a great rapport and a great respect for the family. Tom is always someone I lean on and ask questions when I’m going into an employment situation, and believe me, I called him when I found out about this opportunity.”
The job on West Virginia’s staff came open as co-defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach Jahmile Addae took a defensive job at Georgia in the offseason. Enter ShaDon Brown, who comes from a two-year stint at Louisville with stops at Colorado, Army and Wofford among other stops, including the high school and NAIA levels.
It’s that experience across multiple stops that Neal Brown said most grabbed his attention as much as anything.
“It’s funny how life goes full circle,” Neal Brown said. “I always respected how he went about his business as a player, kind of a blue-collar guy. One of the things that drew me to ShaDon, I like these guys that really worked their way up. You’re talking about a guy that played at the NAIA level, coached at that level then was at high school, then slowly made his way up and made his way up in college football in two systems that I have a lot of respect for. He worked at Wofford and at Louisville with a group that we really think highly of defensively.
“He’s going to be a great addition. I think some of his knowledge and recruiting experience has already started to help us.”