When Chris Pardue was the offensive coordinator at Boyle County, he knew Neal Brown would eventually one day be a successful coach.
“He knew a lot about the game and understood why we did things the way we did,”¿said Pardue, the current head coach at Mercer County. “Neal was one of those kids that would come off the field and knew what the defense was doing and said, ‘If we do this, this will go like this.’ He was able to see things like that all his life.”
Kentucky to the next level as the Wildcats’ offensive coordinator.
Boyle assistant Chris Mason, who was the offensive and defensive line coach back then, said he knew Brown would be successful whatever he wanted to do.
“We knew Neal had it in him, we just didn’t know back them what he wanteds to go into. Obviously, he has paid his dues and we knew he would be a good coach,” said Mason, Boyle’s current offensive coordinator. “But I definitely didn’t see him, I guess, rising as quickly as he did.
“Neal’s a hard worker, he’ll work 24/7. He leaves no stone unturned. As far as recruiting, he’ll do a great job recruiting and work to make that offense the best it can be. I always thought Neal was mature for his age, which why he has risen so quickly in the coaching ranks.
“He was always level-headed, he always worked extremely hard and he just did a great job for us. He made plays.”
Pardue said he wasn’t surprised Brown is an SEC offensive coordinator at just 32.
“I followed Neal closely, and we’re good friends now and I think he’s made some great moves in his coaching career,”¿Pardue said. “And I feel this is a great move for him. I still see him going on and becoming a head coach before too long. He’ll get in the SEC and be successful and be ready for a head coaching position.”
Mason credited Brown with helping Boyle develop a high-scoring, wide open offense.
“He really kind of started us trying to throw the ball a little bit. Because up until then, Boyle had been a power-I team, then we started running some spread sets because of Neal and (quarterback)¿Bart Johnson. Those guys stared running the current offense we used at Boyle,”¿Mason said.
While Brown runs the Air Raid system that former UK coach Hal Mumme employed when Brown played at Kentucky, Mason said Brown has made it his own.
“It’s a mix of Neal’s stuff and Tony Franklin’s stuff, and all those guys that were in Mumme’s system. It’s not really the Mumme system though; it’s evolved into what Neal wants to do.”
Mason just hopes Wildcat fans show some patience while Brown gets the right players in to run his system.
“Just with the talent UK has now, it’s not what he had at Texas Tech. And I hope people realize that don’t have kind of talent. It will take a couple or three years to get kids in there to use in his offense.”
“People may be impatient at first. What they will do is line up and check to the sidelines, and he always puts you in a position to make good plays according to how the defense lines up. He’ll take whan the defense gives him. They may throw to the flats 35 times in one game and then throw deep 10 to 12 times the next.”
Pardue said he’s gone from coaching Brown to asking his advice on offense.
“We’ve stayed in contact, and all these years later, when¿I’m trying to figure out something, Neal is the first person I would call to ask his advice and opinion,” he said.
Mason was in Brown’s wedding and still talks to him three or four times a year.
“A lot of things he does are the same things we used to do. And any time he’s in town he will look up all of us and we’ll go see him to talk to him. The last seven or eight years, we’ve been going to the national coach association convention, and we’ll see him there and we’ll all go out to eat dinner,” Mason said.
“What’s really neat is all the guys who coached Neal, if we called him and asked him to come down, if he could make it work, he would. I got to be in Neal’s wedding when he married Brooke. I’m sure she’s thrilled to death to get back to her family. Now with kids and things like that, it’s going to be great for them.”