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Everette Brown didn’t think he would ever be a coach, even though he didn’t want to be completely done with football.
The former top draft pick of the Carolina Panthers was happy in retirement, operating two businesses in Charlotte and looking to start a family with his wife, Tenisha Patterson Brown. However, with his last NFL training camp in 2015, retirement came earlier for Brown than he imagined when he left Florida State in 2009 as an All-America defensive end for the Seminoles. Brown, a 2005 Beddingfield High graduate, still yearned to be around the game he loved.
“Honestly, this was just something that I couldn’t get away from, no matter how much I was involved with business and no matter anything that was going on in the world with family and obviously, trying to start a family,” he said. “You know, I could just never get away from it and I would go around town and I would run into different people and different coaches, even those at the high school level, and they were like, ‘Hey, man, you’d be a great coach. Have you ever thought about coaching?’”
Now it’s all Brown thinks about as he comes off an internship with the Panthers as part of the Bill Walsh Diversity Coaching Fellowship. He was chosen by the Panthers to receive the internship in the spring and joined the staff at the start of training camp in July. Now he hopes that will mean a permanent position on the Carolina coaching staff.
“Yes, that’s the goal,” Brown said. “That’s what I’m working toward. I hope to hear pretty soon in a few days leading up to the Dallas game (Sept. 9). I really do enjoy coming over here every day and being back in the organization.”
STILL A PANTHER
Brown still considers the Panthers “home” despite playing just two seasons with them. Carolina drafted Brown with its top pick, the 11th of the second round and 43rd overall, in 2009. The deal cost the Panthers a fourth-round pick that year and a first-round pick in 2010, which brought criticism of then general manager Marty Hurney, who returned as GM of the Panthers prior to last season. Brown was cut by the Panthers just before the 2011 season then bounced around the league, playing parts of the 2011, 2013 and 2014 seasons for the San Diego Chargers, the Dallas Cowboys and the Washington Redskins. He spent time in camp with the Detroit Lions, Philadelphia Eagles and the Cleveland Browns before finally hanging it up in 2015 after being cut by the Browns.
Still, he never left Charlotte and the Panthers and the NFL remained dear to his heart.
“I really love the NFL-level football,” he said. “It’s the area that I have the most experience in, obviously going to different teams and learning different playbooks, but also just learning the business side of things. Not saying that when I was going through it I was actually learning it but when I played, when I look back at my career, I learned so much.
“I would love to stay here, stay at home in Charlotte with the Panthers, with an organization that I know a lot of their staff in the building that were the same staff when I was here, from security all the way to the general manager. It’s just really good to be back in a place where you’re wanted and being able to work with people all over again. It’s kind of come full circle. I also really considered going back to the college level. There’s a great need there for experienced coaches who have playing experience and also younger (coaches), with the recruiting in college changing so much, that relate to the players but also able to coach at a high level. I’m open to both but my main focus right now, and what I’ve learned, is be where your feet are and so, with me being in the building with the Panthers, I’m just making sure I put my best foot forward and work my tail off to make sure I’m doing everything and above what I’m being asked to do.”
He wasn’t always sure coaching was for him, although Tenisha Brown thought her husband was perfect for the job.
“It’s something I told my wife a few years back, ‘No, I won’t ever get into coaching. That’s not for me,’” he said. “She told me, three, five years ago, ‘I think you’d be a great coach.’ I said I didn’t want to think about that right now, I just want to think about playing.
“She didn’t push me at all but it was something I brought back to her and said, ‘You know what? I’m going to go to this coaching event here or this NFL coaching conference the NFL has and I’m just going to network and see.”
Brown said he attended an NFL coaching convention in Charlotte and was astounded at the number of people he knew that were there.
“It was like I couldn’t walk past one person that I don’t know or haven’t crossed paths with from going to different teams or followed me throughout college,” he said. “It made me realize how big of a network I had built as a player, but then also as a person because most of them remember my character and the kind of guy that I am and how I would be good for locker rooms and organizations. And everybody was real excited that I was there.”
GETTING THE CALL AGAIN
In February, Brown applied for an internship with the Panthers through the Bill Walsh Diversity Coaching Fellowship and kept his fingers crossed.
“They ended up calling me in June and telling me that I had been chosen for the position and asked me if I wanted to accept it,” he said. “And I said, ‘Yes! When do I start?’”
The call reignited a familiar passion for Brown.
“I felt like it was an opportunity, kind of like getting the call all over again, not being drafted but just that, ‘Hey, we want to bring you in to sign with the organization,’” he said. “Although it was internship, I just took it like I was a player and wanted to produce every day and show consistency and that I wanted to be a part of the organization.”
It wasn’t like he didn’t have anything to do. The Browns, who met while both were undergraduates at Florida State, have owned a Tropical Smoothie Cafe franchise in Charlotte since 2013 and opened Charlotte Luxury Rentals, a high-end vehicle rental and concierge business, in 2015. In addition, Brown serves as a consultant for Tenisha Brown, who is a sports attorney and business manager. So if the coaching gig doesn’t work out with the Panthers, the Browns aren’t exactly going to be starving.
“If it doesn’t, either way I’ll be in the business world,” he said. “So I’ll stay busy, of course. It’s hard for me to sit and relax! Whether I’m in the building, business is still going as usual and if I’m out of the building, business will still go on as usual but I’ll be a little bit more hands on if I’m outside of the building with the team.”
For now, Brown is hoping to stay with the Panthers because Charlotte is his home. However, he’s not averse to the idea of joining another team or even a collegiate staff now that the coaching bug has bitten him.
“It’s been great!” he said. “This internship could be taken very lightly; in this case, it isn’t. I hold it to a high standard because so many former players have been able to be a part of this internship and then go on to be great coaches as well. There was a little bit of an expectation, I could tell, but I didn’t shy away from it because I had a greater expectation for myself.”
The alumni of the Walsh Fellowship, which began in 1987, include NFL head coaches Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Marvin Lewis of the Cincinnati Bengals. Panthers defensive coordinator Eric Washington, who was the Carolina defensive line coach when Brown played, is also an alumnus.
“Even though I was here in 2011 with Coach Washington and I was cut from the Panthers and I continued my career, I remember one thing about him — and he remembered at least one thing about me — is his character and my character of just being good men and for him, a good coach,” Brown said. “For me, I bring in being a positive guy, a locker-room guy that can get along with the players but also take each day serious when I come into work.”
It also helps Brown that Panthers head coach Ron Rivera is a supporter of the Bill Walsh Fellowship program.
“That’s been something Coach Rivera has emphasized — the importance of having former players in the building that are going to add value to the team because of their experiences and the way that they see football,” Brown said.
So it’s now wait-and-see for Brown whether the Panthers will keep him. He said it’s not quite as nerve-wracking as when he was a player fighting for a roster spot, but he hopes to stick with the team, nonetheless.
“I’ve just learned to be where your feet are and my feet are here with the Panthers and this is an opportunity that I’m a hundred-percent locked in on,” Brown assured.