LINCOLN — Longtime Husker assistant Ron Brown is returning to Nebraska football to work for Scott Frost and serve as a mentor to players. Brown will be NU’s new director of player development, Frost announced Wednesday.
An industry veteran, Brown coached three positions over 24 years at NU under head coaches Tom Osborne, Frank Solich and Bo Pelini. He wrote multiple books and gave countless speeches all over the state in aid of Christian ministries drawing strong praise — and strong criticism — for his off-the-field mission.
Brown followed Pelini to Youngstown State after he was fired in 2014 but said "every single day was a battle" there. He left after three months for Liberty University, where he served as associate head coach under former Husker player and assistant Turner Gill.
Brown visited Frost at a Husker football practice this spring. Now he’s back on staff.
"Coach Brown had a tremendous impact on me during my playing career at Nebraska, and I am sure he will have a similar impact on many young men in our football program in the years ahead," Frost said. "Coach Brown understands Nebraska and what makes this a great place for student-athletes to grow and learn in all areas."
Brown was traveling Wednesday, a Husker football spokesman said, and wasn’t available for interviews. He didn’t immediately respond to texts or calls from the Omaha World-Herald.
Ex-players — including Will Compton and Matt Davison — praised the hire on social media, as did current running backs coach Ryan Held, who played for Brown in the 1990s.
"What a great hire for our players and staff!" Held wrote on Twitter.
According to NU, Brown will be mentoring football players in off-field development matters, working with Nebraska’s Life Skills department and assisting staff and players with community outreach.
Brown coached Nebraska’s wide receivers and tight ends from 1987-2003. He returned to lead the tight ends and running backs from 2008-14. Brown molded arguably the two best Husker running backs of the last 20 years in Rex Burkhead and Ameer Abdullah. His energetic coaching style — he often liked to be
involved in his own drills — was popular among players.
He stayed active in evangelical Christian ministry work throughout his NU coaching career. During the four-year tenure of Nebraska coach Bill Callahan, Brown was state director for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
He returned to Nebraska’s coaching staff in 2008, and in 2011 — as part of Pelini’s staff — led a widely-praised prayer before the Nebraska-Penn State football game. That took place just after the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal broke, PSU coach Joe Paterno was fired by the university and riots took place in State College.
"There are a lot of little boys out there, watching this game, trying to make sense out of life," Brown said after the game of his prayer. "They are asking, ‘What is manhood?’ May we demonstrate to them what manhood is, to come out and play the game of football, with ferocity, with passion ... I felt like God held his hand of healing over the stadium today. I know some people may not understand that, but I think there was a reverence in the crowd today. A respect for one another, for the players, for the game."
Four months later in March 2012, Brown drew ample criticism for his appearance at an Omaha City Council meeting. Brown opposed amendments to the city’s discrimination laws that revolved around the rights of LGBT individuals to file complaints if they felt discriminated against because of their orientation.
Brown used Memorial Stadium — not his home residence — as his address and compared council members to Pontius Pilate. He said during the council meeting, "The question I have for you, like Pontius Pilate, is: ‘What are you going to do with Jesus?’ For those of you on this council who have a relationship with Christ, and only you know if you do, you will be held to great accountability for the decision you make."
He was rebuked by then-UNL chancellor Harvey Perlman.
"Several people have written me asking if his remarks represent the position of the university," Perlman said in a statement at the time. "I want to be clear that they do not."
When Nebraska fired Pelini in 2014 and Riley took over, some fans pushed for Riley to retain Brown as a connection to the Huskers’ era of football dominance. Riley didn’t have a spot for him.
"I appreciate what Coach Brown has done here," Riley said in January 2015. "There’s no doubt Coach Brown has had a remarkable career, and is a very good person."
Brown followed Pelini to Youngstown State. Within weeks on campus there, YSU’s student newspaper called on Brown, Pelini and school president Jim Tressel to get sensitivity training for Brown’s "Neolithic" views on homosexuality.
"I hadn’t even met anybody, really, at the university," Brown said in 2015. "They just kind of went on my reputation at Nebraska."
He took a job at Liberty — a private Christian college founded by televangelist Jerry Falwell.
"I feel like I’ll have a national platform at Liberty at a time when people who believe like I do — in terms of Christianity — need to have voices," Brown said. At the time, he even said he had some closure on his time at Nebraska.
Frost has reopened the door.