Former Florida Gator football player Vernell Brown was able to return his college program last year for the first time since completing his football career in 2005. Within his time as a player, former head coach Urban Meyer labeled him as the “Face of Florida Football” for his incredible work ethic and devotion. In addition, Brown held a position as team captain, played 45 games and started 11 of them.
In 2018, Dan Mullen recognized Brown’s leadership ability and had him join the coaching staff as Director of Player Development. Brown’s devotion to the program has seemingly not skipped a beat since he has hung up his cleats.
The Gator Glory Days
Brown has had a long companionship with the game of football and believes it helped to shape him into the man he is today.
“Not just at Florida, but my whole football career was trying to prove people wrong. I was told I couldn’t play varsity football because of my size. I was told I wouldn’t play collegiate football and definitely not for the SEC. So my whole career was trying to prove people I could do it and that was kinda my point of when I first stepped on the field at the University of Florida from the time I left,” explained Brown.
Brown was noticed and recruited by former Head Coach Steve Spurrier.
“Coach Spurrier obviously was the one that gave me the opportunity to be at the University of Florida. I was happy to be a Gator, I grew up being a Gator. I had a lineage of family members who were Gators. When Spurrier left, it was a little bit devastating, however, I was excited about the new coaching staff to come in,” he said.
Within Brown’s final year as a player, he was able to be coached under Urban Meyer. Brown explained that Meyer helped convince him to stay and play his final year.
“He sat me down and we had a meeting. I asked for the opportunity to play and he said that he’d give me the opportunity and that I would need to take advantage of it. He really gave everybody from walk-ons to the top scholarship guys the opportunity to get on the field.”
In addition, Brown was made a team captain within this season.
“Being a captain was something that wasn’t chosen by coaches but by players. One of the things I’ve done from the time I set foot on the field was to be a hard worker,” he said. “I wanted a chance and once given that opportunity I was able to show what I could do with it. I’d like to think that was one of the reasons the guys picked me as a captain.”
After Brown completed college, he began to coach youth football. He explained that he was able to grow in his passion for teaching and developing during this time in his life.
“It was an incredibly rewarding experience, I still miss it to this day. Catching those kids at a young age is an opportunity for you to really instill the fundamentals. My team in 2015 won nationals and became the number one team in the country. A lot of people play football and a lot of people know football, but its a whole other avenue to get kids at 7 and 8 years old to understand what exactly you’re trying to accomplish. Being able to mold kids on and off the field is something I have been passionate about,” said Brown.
Maintaining The Gator Standard
As Director of Player Development, Brown has continued to showcase his devotion and his knowledge for leading.
“I definitely feel the program is heading in the right direction. I ran away from college sports for a long time, but when Coach Mullen called me and went over the job with me, I knew it was something I’ve always been passionate about. It was right up my ally and I knew it was time to come back to college sports,” he said.
Brown explained that his position allows him to deal a lot with football, but even more outside of football. Brown helps his players to maintain their academics and how they represent themselves off the field.
“I tell people that I have five kids at home but I got another 120 at work. Getting the opportunity to see those guys come in as a freshman and help them develop all the way through and hopefully help them transition into the NFL or another league or into corporate America,” he said.
Brown has high hopes for the future of the program and looks to help reach specific goals.
— Vernell Brown Jr. (@CoachVB_UF) May 7, 2020
Finally, Brown has had to adjust to the issues caused by the coronavirus and how it affects his players. His biggest responsibility is maintaining contact with the team and helping them finish the semester.
“One thing we can control is finishing up schooling and helping the semester come to a close. Also,keeping our bodies physically and mentally healthy. I think our guys have done a great job given the circumstances and at the end of the day we do have a goal to be a championship team. In order to do so, everybody needs to be held accountable.”