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How Thomas Brown's parents, a preacher and a teacher, shaped him


CHARLOTTE – Thomas Brown's rapid rise to his NFL offensive coordinator job, and now to becoming the Panthers' play-caller, was the kind of ascension his parents have always seen coming.

His mother, Dr. Louise Baker Brown, said Thomas always seemed to have an unquenchable ambition, and sometimes she'd "want to put the reins" on him. He pushed anyway.

"I'd tell him; I'd say, 'Thomas, you've got time; you've got time to do this and do that,' but he would always say, 'Now is the time,'" she said. "So he would always move forward in anything he pursued. We're not surprised at all that he has done as well as he has. 

"I would often say, 'Don't work too hard.' And he would say, 'There's no such thing as working too hard.' That's what he would say, and that's how Thomas feels."

Thomas Brown

Brown became the third Black play-caller in the NFL, and he did it at 37 years old. (The other two Black play-callers, the Eagles' Brian Johnson and the Commanders' Eric Bieniemy are 36 and 54 years old, respectively.)

Brown's arrival to this point was a fast one, and it required him to lean into the natural abilities bestowed upon him from his father, a bishop in the Sixth Episcopal District of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church in Georgia, and his mother, an educator who spent 30 years in the field. 

The younger Thomas will credit his parents, the preacher and the teacher who grew up in rural towns in Yalobusha County, Mississippi, to his well-known mentality around Bank of America Stadium as an energetic leader, sharp football mind, and passionate teacher. 

Taking over as the play-caller of a team searching for its first win, Thomas Brown acknowledged the task at hand. And it's the kind of responsibility he was made for. 

"I think it's easy to lean into the fears of what could go wrong," he said. "But I also have the mindset of the kind of proactive approach about having faith in our process and myself, who I've been built to be, but more importantly, who's around me." 

Thomas Brown is ready to press on toward success – because that's what he has watched throughout his life, even before he found the presence he commands in front of a room today.

Louise Brown and Thomas Brown Sr.

Thomas Brown was a productive running back at Georgia from 2004-08, putting up more than 800 yards in three seasons and helping the Bulldogs earn a 2008 Sugar Bowl victory as a senior. His NFL days were shorter, as his playing career ended in 2010, and he said his father would often tell him to keep coaching in the back of his mind.

But that wasn't something he wanted to hear.

"While I'm playing, I'm like, 'Dad, there's no way in the world I'm ever going to become a coach. Like when I get done playing, I'm going to do something other than football,'" he said.

He wanted to dive into finance as he earned securities licenses and looked to sell insurance and investment products. But his father wanted to encourage him to use what he'd learned while earning a degree at Georgia in speech communications, skills that were naturally within him but took time to develop.

Thomas Brown called himself a "humongous introvert" before becoming a coach. Thomas Brown Sr. said his son's more quiet demeanor started before elementary school and lasted into his early 20s when he'd often ask him how he became a public speaker and did it with confidence. Louise recalled giving Thomas tips before a speech in college.

"He was very anxious about it," she said. "So we went over some things, and I told him (to) find at least one person that you can make eye contact with that seems to support you, or simply look over their heads when you are speaking. He called back later and said, 'Hey, that worked, and I did OK.'"

Thomas Brown

So knowing all Thomas Brown went through to grow as a speaker in his college classes, and his unflinching passion for football, Thomas Brown Sr. felt that his son was meant to coach the sport.

He didn't see that passion within the financial space. He saw it on the field.

"He had spent so much time in football from the age of 8, basically had not done anything else but play football," Thomas Brown Sr. said. "So I kept saying to him, 'That's what you know.' … He's come to love it and have great passion in it, and has great ability. So I think once he began to coach Chattanooga, where he started – he was moving; every year, he was going to a different team. You could see the passion growing on him."

For Thomas Brown himself, growing to become a coach was about giving things back to his players that he never received. After his playing time ended, Thomas said he initially wrote a proposal for a plan he wanted to implement at Georgia to help players transition to the real world. He said post-playing days can hit "like a ton of bricks" when the phone stops ringing and the fans go away, so he wanted to build a program to support those players after football.

The plan wasn't successful, but it wasn't the end of the road. When his pitch was unsuccessful, Thomas transitioned to starting his coaching career as a strength and conditioning coach at Georgia, beginning his journey as a college running backs coach the following season and working at four schools across four years before landing a job as an offensive coordinator at the University of Miami in 2016.

"Having a chance to, first of all, be back in the building when it comes to impacting lives is my biggest draw to coaching," he said. "I kind of just fell in love with Xs and Os as the process went on."

Thomas Brown


Thomas Brown's parents will point to his relationship with his wife, Jessica, a "gregarious" woman who Louise said naturally encouraged Thomas to be more verbal, and his time with the Rams as factors in his growth as a communicator.

His father noticed him taking more interviews in Los Angeles as his role in McVay's system elevated, moving from running backs coach to an assistant head coach and tight ends coach. It all played into making him the leader he is for the Panthers' offense. 

When Thomas Brown was in the interview cycle, meeting with teams about head coaching roles and coordinator roles (including the one he eventually took here at Carolina), his family was 

"We are awed by this development," his father said. "We were excited when he told us that he was interviewing. … And we had no doubt that if he got the chance, he could do well. We believe in him, and he's the kind of person who's going to do all he can, not only to win but to be at the top of his game." 

Louise said her son's drive to win has been apparent since he was playing at Tucker High School. 

His passion seeped through all levels of football, from when he was in pads to when his current days on the headset. 

"When they would lose a game in high school or college, he would just be almost physically sick for several days," she said. "And we would say, 'You know, somebody's got to win, and somebody's got to lose.' And he would say, 'Well, I don't want to be the one that's losing.'"

Thomas Brown

As he accepted the job at Carolina this spring, Thomas Brown moved much closer to his family. They're rooted in Atlanta, and Louise said she was "ecstatic" to have her son, his wife, and their three grandsons, Orlando, Tyson, and Judah, closer than when they were living in Southern California. 

Above their son's rapid coaching rise and added responsibility, Thomas Brown's parents said they feel the most pride when seeing him interact with his sons. 

"I am most proud of the father that he is and the commitment he has to be there for them," he said. "Going from college to the NFL has allowed him more time to be with his sons, just watch them play football or other sports, school, and what have you. That is precious, and he seems to cherish that role."

"He's a good father," Louise echoed. "He always says he has a good example." 

His parents will make a trip to Charlotte this weekend and are most looking forward to watching Orlando play football at Myers Park, where he's a freshman cornerback on the varsity team. Louise said Thomas's oldest son and his father are "almost identical in terms of how they are trending," as Thomas Brown played on his high school's varsity team as a freshman as well. 

Thomas Brown said the energy he brings as a coach is a reflection of the work he had to do as a communicator. He also credited his wife, Jessica, as he said he needed to learn how to talk more when paired with a "social butterfly" like her. 

He said he has also learned how to work with different types of people because of the various personalities of his three sons. Orlando, who is 15, is much like his father when he was a teenager. Tyson, 14, is "bubbly" like his mother, Thomas said. Judah, 6, is different from all of them.

Thomas Brown has grown into an energetic leader, and he was prepared for the role here as the offensive play-caller because he grew up with role models for it. 

"There's no reward without the risks that come with this profession," he said. "And I've been built and raised that way because I was raised by fighters. So I don't back down from anything, anybody. … I'd still consider myself to be relatively young, but the older I get, I think about (how) fear and faith only exist in the future."

Take a look at the best photos from pregame, in-game and postgame from the Panthers' Week 6 matchup with the Miami Dolphins.

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