Posted: September 20, 2007
THOMASVILLE, NC Football coaches spend a great deal of time talking about how much heart their players show in valiant comebacks or agonizing defeats.
Football fans often remark on the heart-stopping action they witness on the field each Friday night.
Throughout the Thomasville community this week, however, hearts are aching with the news that two members of the most famous football family in town are out of commission due to open-heart surgery.
Long-time Bulldogs football coach Allen Brown underwent quintuple-bypass surgery on Monday and his son, Vince, will be on the operating table for a valve replacement procedure next Monday.
Allen Brown told family members that he experienced chest pain during Thomasville’s 12-7 win over Albemarle on Sept. 14, and tests later showed severe blockages in the arteries leading to the heart. The 61-year-old coach came through surgery successfully, said Benjie Brown.
Vince, meanwhile, had a routine checkup recently that led to doctors’ decisions to replace a heart valve.
Allen Brown’s youngest son is 35, while Benjie is 37. Both played football for their dad at Thomasville.
“It pretty well snuck up on us,” Benjie said Tuesday. “We were kind of in shock when we found out about Vince first, and then this thing with Daddy was even more of a shock. It’s been tough on us emotionally, but so far things have turned out to be OK.” Benjie Brown said Allen’s procedure saved his life, as doctors at Forsyth Medical Center told the family that a heart attack likely would have come at some point in the future.
Vince Brown has worked as a community volunteer coach with the Thomasville football team, primarily during the summer months, explained Benjie. Allen Brown’s absence created a void on the sideline, though. Allen coached the Bulldogs from 1973 to 1999, compiling a record of 263-72-2 with three state championships during his tenure.
He gave way to Benjie in 2000, stepping aside completely as his son started building a group that would win three straight N.C. High School Athletic Association 1AA state championships. Allen came back and served as an assistant on those last three teams.
When Benjie accepted an assistant principal position at Liberty Drive Elementary School in Thomasville, he no longer could serve as a head coach due to state regulations. Allen was the logical choice to replace his son, and he accepted the head coaching reins in July.
Thomasville sits 4-0 this season and owns the state’s longest winning streak at 41 games. With Allen now forced into a long recuperative process – “He’ll be involved in it quick as he can to some extent, but it’ll be dangerous for him to be on the sideline any time soon,” Benjie said – school officials were left scrambling to fill that coaching void.
Benjie said extensive research done by Thomasville City Schools Superintendent Dr. Daniel Cockman and Bulldogs athletic director Woody Huneycutt showed that he could return in a limited capacity during this time of need.
The new co-head coaches of the Bulldogs will be Roger Bryant and Sam Captain. Cockman said Benjie’s involvement fell within the framework set up by the state as explained to Huneycutt by NCHSAA associate executive director Rick Strunk. The superintendent said he also planned to advise the school board about Benjie’s short-term foray back into the coaching world and was drafting a letter about the situation.
“We’re going to all three come together to make this happen,” Benjie said. “I’ll be making some of the decisions on the field and those guys will handle some of the other on- and off-the-field coaching duties. I can make sure that I do a good job at being a good assistant principal for our kids at Liberty Drive. We’re fortunate to be in a town where people support our family and support our football team and will work to help us be successful in both places.”
Bryant has been involved with Thomasville’s football teams for the past 30 years. He also played for Allen Brown. Captain was added to Benjie’s coaching staff prior to the first championship run three years ago. Benjie’s only role on Friday nights had been to drive the bus.
“They’re going to do a good job,” Huneycutt said of the new men in charge. “Every coach on our staff has been trained by either Allen or Benjie Brown. We’ve got a good, stable coaching staff that will be able to jump in there and keep the ball rolling.”
It starts this Friday – for what figures to be an emotional Homecoming game – against Chatham Central. “Allen Brown is just a wonderful human being,” Cockman said. “He’s been so revered in this community. We were so fortunate to get him back (this fall). Our prayers are with him and his family. I hope he can convalesce and maybe he can come back again.”
Courtesy of: Steve Hanf, High Point Enterprise