There may be no place like home, but for new football coach Neal Brown, Troy came pretty close.
Brown was officially introduced on Monday as the 21st head coach of the Troy University football program, returning to the school where he broke through as one of the top offensive coordinators in the country. He came to TROY in 2006 as wide receivers coach before becoming offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in 2008.
"I am humbled and honored to stand at this podium as TROY's head football coach," Brown said during Monday's press conference in the Stadium Club at Veterans Memorial Stadium on the Troy Campus. "I am grateful for Dr. Hawkins and John Hartwell for believing in me and giving me the opportunity to return to this great University."
Brown, A Danville, Ky. native, comes to TROY after a two-year stint as offensive coordinator at the University of Kentucky. He noted that he, his wife Brooke and their two daughters – Adalyn and Anslee – were happy in Kentucky and knew it would take a special opportunity to draw them away from "home."
"Brooke and I both grew up in Kentucky. Our current house is about 20 miles from where we grew up. Our parents both still live in Danville," he said. "We were happy at UK. Brooke graduated from there. We had a good thing going. It would have taken a great opportunity, a special place, to get us to leave. TROY is that special place for us. It is where I became a Division I football coach for the first time. It is where Brooke and I first moved when we got married. It is where our first child was born."
Brown said the head coaching job was more than just about the many wonderful memories he and his family had during their previous time at TROY.
"It wasn't because of the memories; there are a lot of them. It was because of the opportunity," Brown said. "What made TROY special for us are not the four conference championships we won while we were here. It wasn't the three bowl bids. It is the people. There are special people here. This was a place we always kept our eye on because of the potential here, what Coach Blakeney has done, and what the program has done throughout its history. We are grateful for the opportunity to come back and to be the head coach."
Brown's coaching resume also includes three seasons as offensive coordinator at Texas Tech and stints at both Sacred Heart and Delaware. At 34 years old, Brown is the second youngest head coach in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
Brown will follow Larry Blakeney, whom he credits with his development as a coach. Blakeney coached his final game for the Trojans this past Saturday against Louisiana-Lafayette, after serving 24 seasons as TROY's head coach.
"Larry Blakeney is TROY football," Brown said. "He led this program through so many transitions. He did it the right way and he won at a high level. I have learned so much from him and I will always be grateful for that. He is a tremendous man, mentor and he is my friend."