MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — ShaDon Brown knows the competitive nature of Neal Brown quite well.
With a relationship that extends beyond 25 years dating back to their playing days in Kentucky high school football, the two are familiar with one another for more than half their lives.
“We’ve known each other since 1994 when his dad took over as the principal at Boyle County High School,” ShaDon Brown said. “That was a rival of Danville, my high school. We played all three sports — basketball, football and baseball. We competed against each other and it wasn’t as friendly then as what it is now, but I got to know him throughout that.”
During their playing days, ShaDon Brown also discovered a different side of Neal Brown — one very few West Virginia faithful are familiar with.
“Coach Brown was the biggest crap talker that I ever played against,” ShaDon Brown said.
But these days, it’s all business for the Browns. Nearly a month into his tenure as co-defensive coodinator and defensive backs coach at West Virginia, ShaDon Brown says he couldn’t pass up on the opportunity to join Neal Brown’s staff ahead of his third season with the Mountaineers.
“The thing that attracted me to West Virginia was obviously the head football coach,” ShaDon Brown said. “The relationship I have with him for over 20 years attracted me and then I visited and saw this place, what they’re trying to build with the new facility, and the prospect of this program is climbing.”
Last season, Jahmile Addae was WVU’s co-defensive coordinator with Jordan Lesley. Addae was also in charge of the cornerbacks, but when he left to coach defensive backs at Georgia in the offseason, it left a void on a defensive staff that guided college football’s top passing defense in 2020.
Neal Brown then looked to pry away ShaDon Brown from Louisville, where he’d spent two seasons as safeties coach. Previously, ShaDon Brown had also overseen the secondary at Colorado for two seasons, served as secondary coach at Army in 2016 and worked with defensive backs for five years at Wofford. This after his coaching career began with stops at the University of the Cumberlands, his alma mater of Campbellsville University and a pair of Kentucky high schools, including Boyle County.
“One of the things that really drew me to ShaDon is I like these guys that really work their way up,” Neal Brown said. “You’re talking about a guy who played at the NAIA level, coached at that level and then was in high school. He 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. We played against them when I was at Troy and they were at (Appalachian State) and it was the same system. And then working for Mike MacIntyre at Colorado, who I have a lot of respect for not only as a head coach, but a defensive mind.”
During his first month in Morgantown, ShaDon Brown has begun acclimating himself with the Mountaineers’ 4-2-5 defensive scheme.
“It’s very unique and different than anything I’ve ever been a part of,” he said. “Sometimes guys get into programs and say they’re this or that, but I’ve been a 3-4 guy mainly in my 18 years of coaching. This opportunity to coach in a new scheme, learn a different defense and put my spin on the secondary is intriguing.”
Last season, the Mountaineer defense allowed 159.6 passing yards per game to rank first nationally, while they were No. 21 in scoring defense, surrendering 20.5 points on average.
“If it’s not broke, don’t try to fix it,” Brown said. “Last year was really good and there doesn’t need to be a wholesale change on what we’re doing here.”
At WVU, Brown will recruit an area of West Virginia — the Eastern Panhandle — as well as Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. He’ll also be in charge of northern Florida and southern Georgia and spot recruit in Kentucky.
“He’s going to be a great addition,” Neal Brown said. “Some of his knowledge and recruiting experience has already started to help us.”