“Be a light”: Neal Brown joins The Underdog Podcast to discuss developing “total Mountaineers”

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Neal Brown has made it clear throughout his tenure as West Virginia’s head football coach that his goal isn’t just to coach football.

The son of two teachers, Brown has taken his educator heritage to heart. Off the gridiron, Brown has implemented his 5th Quarter Program, which aims to help his student-athletes improve themselves in the classroom, community and everyday life. As current events have come to the forefront of American life, however, he has taken this aspect of his job much more seriously. He joined The Underdog Podcast this week to discuss his role.

“It’s really become clear to me that football now is just the tool that I’ve been given to develop men,” he said.

As protests have swept the nation after the death of George Floyd, Brown took to Twitter and offered the lyrics of country singer Thomas Rhett: “Be a light.”

“I thought it was important to write something from my heart,” he said. “I didn’t think it was something to get help from our PR department. I didn’t even tell anyone that I was going to send anything out. And so that song just resonated with me during the pandemic, and it still resonates me through this time.”

As he has spoken to his student-athletes about tough topics like systemic racism, Brown says he has gotten hope about this generation of young people. He adjusted his team’s schedule to allow his student-athletes to participate in last week’s peaceful protests in Morgantown, and even went downtown to observe the demonstrations.

“It was all young people, you know what I mean? It was young people leading the way and when I see the stuff on social media, so much of it is driven by young people, by the age group that…we are fortunate enough to coach, so there’s a lot of hope,” he said. “But I think for the people in leadership, part of the long-term solution is to develop leaders that are put in these positions where they can truly make a difference.”

Of course, Brown adds he doesn’t have the answer to the country’s problems — but he says leadership can be a big piece of the solution. Leadership development, after all, is one of the main pillars of the 5th Quarter Program.

Ultimately, Brown has made it his goal to develop “total Mountaineers.” In fact, it’s one of his favorite parts of being West Virginia’s head football coach.

“I really enjoy the piece of trying to take someone from where they’re at to where they want to be…and seeing that development,” he said. “That’s really encouraging and it’s really rewarding, and I think that’s a big reason.”

But that’s not his only favorite thing.

“And here’s the thing, man, gameday, there’s nothing like that either,” he said.

You can hear the full episode of The Underdog Podcast hosted by Kyle Decker and Calvin Blackmon by clicking here, or following the link on the tweet below:

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