By George Bremer
The Herald Bulletin
---- — ANDERSON — Family is more important than football for Robert Brown.
And that could be the best thing to happen to the Anderson High School football program in years.
The Fort Wayne native and former Indiana University linebacker quite literally followed his heart to just the second head coaching stop of his career.
Brown resigned after three seasons at Fort Wayne Wayne to move closer to his fiancee in Indianapolis. But he also wanted to make sure his new home was a good fit for his son, Aaron, who will be a freshman quarterback in the fall.
He found everything he was looking for in Anderson, where he will become the school's first black head football coach since Woody Moore in the 1970s.
"I didn't apply for a lot of the jobs that were open because I didn't see myself being happy there," Brown said inside the AHS cafeteria Wednesday, shortly after his first official meeting with his new team. "Football, maybe. But teaching there, my son going there, maybe not diverse enough for me. Maybe not representative of what I believe in and things that are important to me. So when researching Anderson, the job came open in March, I jumped at the opportunity."
Brown emerged as the choice from 28 applicants, 11 of whom made it to the initial interview stage. That group eventually was narrowed to three, but Brown stood out all along.
Indians athletic director Steve Schindler received glowing reports from his peers at both Fort Wayne Snider — where Brown coached defensive linemen for one year — and Wayne. And he quickly became convinced of the quality of his new coach's character.
There's a buzz surrounding this hiring that was evident less than 24 hours into Brown's reign. He spent much of his first day on the job walking the hallways, meeting his new players and attempting to recruit any able-bodied boy who might look good in a helmet and shoulder pads.
After introducing himself to the Indians, Brown held another meeting in the cafeteria that was open to anybody in the community who would like to get to know the new head coach. A former star at Fort Wayne Harding who played for the Hoosiers during the Cam Cameron era, he's already brought an air of optimism to the Tribe.
"I feel like, with this new coach, we're going to get a lot done," said tight end Robbie Peele, who will be a senior in the fall. "Hopefully, we'll make a lot of changes and get some more wins."
Anderson is hoping for the kind of quick turnaround Brown helped make happen at Wayne. The Generals went 0-10 during Brown's debut season in 2011 but improved to 6-4 last year. Included in those victories was a 45-6 pasting of Class 4A state runner-up Bishop Dwenger.
But the new Indians' coach takes little credit for Wayne's success. He said it was the inevitable result of great assistant coaches working together with a great group of kids.
And he believes similar success is possible for the Tribe.
"You kind of start from the bottom," Brown said. "You start motivating one kid at a time, one piece at a time. And from the way it seems, it's like its catching fire. I was talking to a few kids, and they talked to a few kids. I've had kids approaching me who I hadn't met yet and introducing themselves. So I know that kids are talking amongst themselves."
Several new faces appeared at the team meeting, and the returning players hope to see some of the newcomers in the weight room for conditioning throughout the spring and summer.
As for his staff, Brown has invited each of last year's assistant coaches to return. And he's had interest from a couple of his former assistants at Wayne.
It's a proven formula, and one that already has the Indians buying in.
"Having that kind of coaching wanting to come into our system, and to try to get us to (that level of success), knowing that we have potential to go there, that sounds good for us," linebacker Bryant White said. "He's seen things we probably haven't, and we've seen things that he hasn't. If we come together and come to a comprimise, then that will be all well and good for us in the long run."
Brown faced Kokomo and Huntington North during his tenure at Wayne, but he knows he'll face a learning curve against the other North Central Conference opponents. He also knows that goes both ways, with those schools hustling to learn just as much about him and his preferred coaching style.
Many of the specifics are being kept under wraps for now. But it's clear Brown intends to bring an intimidating and hard-hitting approach to Anderson.
Under his tutelage, the Indians will take the fight to the opposition and make no apologies.
"If some people don't like a physical brand of football, so be it," Brown said. "I can live with that. Everything within the rules, not dirty, not cheap, nothing like that. But a team that's not going to quit, that's going to play hard for four quarters and play through the whistle and doesn't stop playing until the official blows the whistle. That's the kind of team we'll have."
Online Watch a feature video from Robert Brown's first day as the Anderson High School football coach at heraldbulletin.com.