Saturday Morning Quarterback

Former LHS coach returns to Nokes-Lasater
Aug 16, 2013
Former Lebanon High head coach Bobby Brown as a Cumberland assistant at the Blue Devils' former Nokes-Lasater Field home

 

Imagine you've refurbished a house, added an addition and greatly increased its value.

After living in it for a while, you move out and the house is sold. Then you come back and rent a room in the addition you built.

Bobby Brown can relate.

As Lebanon High's football coach in the 2000s, he spearheaded a project that saw the construction of a new fieldhouse to connect with the locker room beneath the west bleachers of Nokes-Lasater Field. At the top of said bleachers, he rallied boosters to build a new press box on what had been the visitors' side. Two years later, he did it again after a windstorm toppled the press box.

Brown left LHS and, a year later, the campus ceased being LHS as the school moved to a new facility across town.

Cumberland negotiated with the school board to obtain the football facility for use by the university's team, in essence, making a large high school stadium a small college field.

Now, Brown is Cumberland's new running backs coach at Nokes-Lasater Field, the place he called his professional home for nine years, where he built, rebuilt, sodded, mowed, painted, you name it.

Donnie Suber just moved into the head coach's big office as CU's head coach after Dewayne Alexander vacated it in January for his alma mater Tennessee Tech. What about the builder and original occupant of said office?

"I have a little cubicle," Brown said the other night after practice. "That does seem a little bit weird.

"I love being back over there. It's the perfect place for football."

Since leaving LHS, Brown has served as assistant principal at Walter J. Baird Middle School. No sooner had he taken that job than the seeds were planted for him to enter college coaching.

"A couple of years ago when Lebanon was done, coach Alexander coached and asked me to come over and help," Brown said. "But with switching schools, I didn't feel comfortable coming over everyday.

"In my third year at Walter J., I feel more comfortable about leaving right after school and coming over to help."

Brown was born in Texas before moving with his family to the Watertown area in the late 1980s. A great baseball player, Brown was the only one with experience when WHS re-started its program. Opposing teams so feared Brown, but not his teammates, that they would walk him every chance possible, even with the bases loaded.

He also played quarterback on the football team for Bill Robinson and on the basketball team for Clint Dennison. Brown played junior-college baseball.

But it was football which would become his livelihood. He became defensive coordinator for Clint Satterfield on Trousdale County's powerhouse teams. When Satterfield backed out, after originally accepting, the position of Lebanon head coach, principal Kip Puryear turned to Brown.

Brown went on to coach nine seasons, matching the legendary Clifton Tribble for longest tenure by a Blue Devil head coach. His career record was below .500, but he did take Lebanon to several playoffs. His best team, in 2004, scored 71 points against Coffee County, one of the highest scoring outputs in playoff history.

But his lasting impression on the program may have been his work on the facility, moving the home sideline from the east [and leaving the old two-story pressbox to the visiting team] to the west and the construction of the press box and fieldhouse. All of that may have been for naught for the long term had Cumberland not taken over the stadium.

"He knows the field left and right," said Suber, noting he hasn't had Brown mow the field, yet. "He knows where every sprinkler head is."

And Suber has picked Brown's memory about the stadium.

"He asks a lot of questions," Brown said. "One of the first days I was over there, there were a lot of cans, chemicals left over from the high school, so he asked me what each one was."

Coaching in college wasn't in Brown's career plans, but it was in the back of his mind.

"Coaching in college has always intrigued me," he said. "I knew I wouldn't go full-fledged into college coaching because, being married and being entrenched in one area, college coaches are always moving. It just worked out where I could do it this year."

The biggest adjustment may have been in the changes Cumberland made to the stadium, namely, painting over everything blue, except the bleachers, with CU's maroon. And that extended to his coaching clothes.

"When I put on my Cumberland shirt and shorts on at the house, I told my wife I just don't look right not having on blue shirts and shorts," Brown said.

But changing colors was a small price to pay to return to coaching.

"I definitely missed it," Brown said. "To me, it's the perfect situation because I still get to be assistant principal, plus I am able to go over and coach college football.

"It's a great setup for me."

"We were fortunate to get him to come out and help," Suber said. "He brings a lot of experience and we needed that for our team."

Brown noted several players from Lebanon's opponents now play for Cumberland, including Mt. Juliet's Michael Nwokoji, who figures to be the starting running back in the new one-back offense. He is also position coach to Wilson Central-alum Brandon Mallory. Freshman running back Ethan Copas and redshirt freshman lineman Tony Bartolomeo played for Brown at LHS.

They saw Brown have to make in-game repairs to the old scoreboard clock which was replaced when the Bulldogs moved in. But he can still be a Mr. Fix-It.

"If the sprinklers come on, I can get them turned off," Brown said.

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