Considered one of the top young minds in college football, Neal Brown has taken Troy football through a renaissance over the past two years.
In two short seasons, Brown has led the Trojans to a 10-win season, the nation’s best turnaround, the first top-25 ranking in school and Sun Belt history, record-breaking attendance numbers, NCAA statistical leaders and much more.
The sixth-youngest head coach in the Football Bowl Subdivision, Brown has transformed the culture of the Troy football program, which has led to wins on the field, in the classroom, in the community and on the recruiting path.
Brown’s second season at Troy saw the Trojans improve their win total by six games from four to 10, a number which was tied for the best turnaround in the country – only Troy and Colorado posted a six-win improvement and won at least 10 games in 2016.
Additionally, Troy became the first Sun Belt Conference school to ever open a season with eight victories in its first nine games and coincidentally became the first school from the Sun Belt to appear in either major top 25 poll – Troy was ranked 25th on Nov. 13, 2016, by the Associated Press.
Troy finished the 2016 season 10-3 overall with non-conference victories over Southern Miss and UMass following a narrow 6-point, 30-24, loss at eventual national champion Clemson. Troy defeated Ohio 28-23 in the Dollar General Bowl that was watched by over 2.5 million viewers on ESPN, the highest rated bowl game between two Group of Five programs.
The television viewers were not the only group that took notice of Troy’s success, as Veterans Memorial Stadium drew a record 135,203 fans for Troy’s six home games, while the 22,534 per-game average was also a record.
Behind All-Sun Belt left tackle Antonio Garcia, the Trojans led the country with just eight sacks allowed and 0.62 sacks allowed per game. Joining Garcia on the All-Sun Belt First Team were five other players in six different spots – Troy’s eight first team selections led the league. Garcia was selected with the 85th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft by the New England Patriots; he became the highest selected offensive lineman in Sun Belt Conference history.
Brown’s first two recruiting classes have paralleled Troy’s success on the field. His first class rated as the second best in the Sun Belt Conference by both 247Sports and Scout, while his second recruiting class was once again rated as the second best in the Sun Belt Conference by 247Sports, while Rivals ranked it as its top class by average signee rating.
Playing under the mantra of “Rebuild the Wall”, Troy finished Brown’s first season as one of the most improved defensive teams in the country, while posting improved numbers across the board.
The Trojans finished the 2015 season with the second-best turnaround nationally in opponent 3rd-down percentage (14.62 percent), the fourth-best turnaround in yards per play allowed (-1.13), the fifth-best improvement in tackles for loss per game (2.59) and 16th-best improvement in total defense (-62.7).
Troy scored five defensive touchdowns, the third most in the country and most by a Troy team since 2004, and finished fifth in the country with 13 fumble recoveries. The Trojans forced 16 turnovers over the final six games of the season after just three in the first six games.
Offensively, Troy improved per-game averages in scoring (6.1) and passing yards (42.0), in passing touchdowns (9), total offensive touchdowns (5), penalty yards per game (-2.2), sacks allowed (-5), red zone scoring (8 percent), first quarter scoring (57) and third quarter scoring (34).
The Trojans ranked 38th in the nation with just 18 sacks allowed after ranking 111th the previous season, while Brandon Burks became the school’s seventh player to rush for over 1,000 yards in a season.
Brown’s Trojans began to click offensively as the season progressed as they averaged 36.0 points over the final six games of the season with three 40-point games. Troy scored 144 points over a three-game stretch against New Mexico State, Appalachian State and ULM -- the most in a three-game period by a Troy squad since 1993.
Attendance also improved during Brown’s initial campaign with the Trojans as the per-game average increased by over 2,600 fans.
Brown led the Trojans to a 4-8 overall record and a 3-5 Sun Belt Conference mark during his first season. However, four of Troy’s five Sun Belt setbacks were by a combined 22 points, while the Trojans’ three league victories came by an average of 35.3 points.
Troy’s improvement carried into the classroom as the cumulative grade point average for the team rose each semester compared to the prior year.
Brown, 37, was named Troy’s 21st head coach on December 1, 2014, and was the second-youngest head coach in the FBS during his inaugural season.
A native of Danville, Ky., Brown spent four seasons at Troy as an assistant coach (2006-09), including the final two as the Trojans’ offensive coordinator. Troy won four Sun Belt Conference titles and appeared in three bowl games during Brown’s initial tenure.
At the time the youngest offensive coordinator in the FBS, Brown’s 2009 offense finished third in the nation in total offense at 485.7 yards per game, fourth in passing at 336.5 yards per game and 16th in scoring with 33.7 points per contest. In 2008, his first season as coordinator, Brown’s fast-paced offense set 10 school records.
In addition to the team accomplishments, Brown guided quarterback Levi Brown to the Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year award in 2009 and SBC Newcomer of the Year in 2008.
Prior to returning to Troy, Brown spent the previous two seasons as the offensive coordinator under Mark Stoops at Kentucky and led the Wildcats to some new heights on the offensive side of the football. The Wildcats posted over 440 yards of total offense in three Southeastern Conference games in 2014, its highest total since 2001.
In his first season, Kentucky’s offense averaged three more points and 26 more yards of total offense per game than the prior year and the totals grew even more in year two. Before Brown left Kentucky, he had the Wildcats averaging 11.3 points and 69.3 yards of total offense more per game than before he arrived on campus. The 11.3 points per game increase was the fourth highest in the country over the same time period.
The Wildcats totaled 380 yards or more of total offense in their first three SEC games in 2014 – Florida, Arkansas and South Carolina – marking the first time a UK team had done so since 1998.
Kentucky scored 21 offensive touchdowns in SEC play in 2014. The two years prior to Brown being named offensive coordinator, Kentucky had a combined 21 offensive touchdowns in SEC play.
Brown left Troy to join Tommy Tuberville’s staff at Texas Tech in 2010 and picked up right where he left off at Troy. With Brown serving as Texas Tech’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, the Red Raiders ranked in the nation’s top-seven teams in passing offense, top-15 in total offense and top-25 in scoring offense, having increased production in all three categories each year since 2010. TTU finished the 2012 season second nationally in passing with 355.9 yards per game, 13th in total offense at 495.4 yards per game and 20th in scoring with 37.5 points per game.
The 2012 campaign was an expansion of the success from 2011, when Texas Tech ranked 13th nationally in total offense at 470.6 yards per game. The Red Raiders lit the scoreboard at a tune of 33.8 points per contest.
Individually, quarterback Seth Doege put up eye-popping numbers. In 2011, Doege threw for 4,004 yards and 28 touchdowns. He improved to 4,205 yards and 39 touchdowns as a senior.
In his first season in Lubbock, Brown’s offense notched 460.2 yards of total offense per game, 318.9 passing, and scored at a 33.1-point clip as Tech went 8-5 and won the TicketCity Bowl.
Brown’s running game has made significant contributions to the attack as well. The Red Raiders rushed for 135.7 yards per game and scored 52 rushing touchdowns during his three seasons. TTU’s primary running backs averaged 5.0 yards per rushing attempt, including a 5.8 average by Kenny Williams, the leading rusher in 2012.
Prior to his first stint at Troy, Brown served one season as wide receivers coach at the University of Delaware, starting three freshman wideouts as the Blue Hens posted a 6-5 record. In 2004, Brown coached the quarterbacks and wide receivers at Sacred Heart, helping guide the school to a 6-4 record and the top-ranked scoring offense in the conference. In 2003, he was the tight ends coach and offensive line assistant at Massachusetts, helping the Minutemen win a share of the Atlantic-10 championship and a berth in the FCS playoffs.
Brown earned his bachelor’s degree in business management and his master’s in business administration from Massachusetts, where he played the 2001-02 seasons. He totaled 58 receptions for 721 yards and four touchdowns while being named to the Atlantic-10 All-Academic Team and the NCAA Division I-AA Athletic Directors’ Academic All-Star Team.
Born in Louisville, Brown grew up in Bardstown, Ky., before moving to Danville, Ky., where he was an all-state wide receiver at Boyle County High School, finishing his career as the No. 2 pass catcher in state history. He played at Kentucky from 1998-2000 and was a two-year letterman, catching 10 passes, including one touchdown. He was a member of the Outback Bowl and Music City Bowl teams and earned a place on the SEC Academic Honor Roll before transferring to Massachusetts.
He and his wife, Brooke, have two daughters Adalyn (9) and Anslee (6), and one son, Dax (2).