While the Ravens are in Philadelphia for two days of joint practices and Thursday’s preseason game, Assistant Special Teams Coach Randy Brown finally has a luxurious 12-mile commute.
For the past 11 years (and counting) Brown has made the 250-mile roundtrip commute from Evesham Township, about 30 minutes southeast of Philadelphia in New Jersey, to Owings Mills to coach the Ravens’ specialists.
He does it because he has two competing passions: football and politics.
Brown was the mayor of Evesham for 12 years, splitting his time between serving his 50,000 or so constituents and helping to build what he and his players now call “Ravens Kicking Academy” or “Specialists U”.
About a year ago, Brown announced he was ending his re-election bid for a fourth term as mayor to focus on coaching football. This year, Brown became a full-time coach for the Ravens – one of just five full-time kicking coaches in the NFL.
“When you coach special teams, and you have eight phases of 11 guys, that’s 88 guys,” Brown said. “So, when you have somebody who can go ahead and focus in on the details of kicking, punting, long snapping, holding, it makes a difference.”
It sure has with the Ravens and Brown. Obviously, each individual player deserves credit for their success, but there’s no doubt about Brown’s influence when looking at his track record.
During his time with the Ravens, Brown has groomed Steven Hauschka, Billy Cundiff, Wil Lutz, Kaare Vedvik and, of course, Justin Tucker.
Hauschka, now with the Bills, has been kicking for 11 years and has been one of the league’s best for spurts. Cundiff went to the Pro Bowl in 2010. Lutz is one of the NFL’s top young kickers with the Saints. The Vikings just traded a reported fifth-round pick for Vedvik. Tucker is the NFL’s all-time most accurate kicker. All were undrafted free agents.
“I owe a large part of my individual success to Randy Brown, absolutely,” Tucker said. “Randy came in my second day of training camp my rookie year, and he changed the type of kicker that I was.”
Brown credits the intel he’s picked up from working with great players, as well as Head Coach John Harbaugh and all the players he has groomed, as well as Jerry Rosburg and all the players he’s coached.
“When you put all that knowledge together, we were able to create, what we believe, is the right way to kick a football, punt a football, snap a football and hold a football,” Brown said.
Tucker said Brown has a “unique talent,” and eye to see what it looks like to do all of those little things perfectly. And that’s what’s required – perfection. Plus, Tucker said Brown is an excellent communicator, which probably didn’t hurt his political career either.
“I think the hallmark of a great coach is being able to communicate to a variety of different personalities effectively, and Randy absolutely knows how to do that,” Tucker said.
“[When I first arrived] he said, ‘You can be an 80-percent guy, or maybe an 80-percent guy in the AFC North, doing what you’re doing right now.’ And he told me, ‘These are the things that you need to do to increase your chances at becoming an 85-, 90-, 95-percent guy in the AFC North.’ So, without Randy then, without Randy now, and all the time that we’ve had in between the last seven-plus years, I would absolutely not be the football player that I am today.”
Brown got his start in the NFL with the Chicago Bears in 1998 coaching punter Todd Sauerbrun, who went on to become a three-time Pro Bowler. Brown started the same year Harbaugh became the special teams coordinator of the Philadelphia Eagles.
The two first met at the NFL Combine, then struck up more of a friendship at the Senior Bowl the following year. Turns out, Eagles kicker David Akers lived right down the street from Brown in New Jersey, so Harbaugh introduced the two and Brown became Akers’ guy.
But Brown also had the itch for politics. He had helped run campaigns for local politicians, then ran one for himself and won the job to be Evesham’s mayor in 2007. Nine months later, Harbaugh was named the Ravens’ head coach.
“After I promised 50,000 people I would represent them for four years, I figured, ‘Gosh, can I really leave right now, only a year in?’” Brown thought.
The Ravens still had Matt Stover in his final year, but Harbaugh invited Brown to work with Hauschka, who the Ravens had just signed to do kickoffs. So Brown struck up an agreement to come on as a part-time coach who would make that long commute to juggle both jobs.
Brown didn’t think it was a big deal. His father was also a local politician, full-time football official and owned a title insurance business. By the way, Brown also does title insurance on the side.
During the regular season, he would do two round trips a week. He would leave home Wednesday morning, then come back Thursday afternoon, then do weekends in Baltimore as well be there for games. During the spring and summer practices, he would do three or four round trips a week.
“Thankfully, John Harbaugh is a political science guy and loves politics, and he allowed me to be mayor for 12 years,” said Brown, who also thanked Owner Steve Bisciotti, President Dick Cass, General Manager Eric DeCosta and Executive Vice President Ozzie Newsome.
“I saw my dad be able to juggle everything, so why couldn’t I juggle everything?”
There were certainly other challenges outside of the miles put on the odometer and time spent away from the family. Politics have changed since his father’s days when there was a meeting every other week and constituents would mail letters asking for assistance. Brown was just a phone call, text or email away, and people want a response five minutes ago.
So on Halloween last year when there was a dead deer at the end of one of his constituent’s driveway, Brown was blown up by phone calls and texts while he was at the Under Armour Performance Center coaching. Another time, he was driving back from the Minnesota Vikings snow game and his phone was ringing off the hook with somebody angry their road hadn’t been plowed yet – while it was still snowing.
“They’re very patient when it comes to responses,” Brown said sarcastically. “So, even though they’re watching you on TV coach a game … You should see the emails and texts, or the phone calls my wife would get: ‘The mayor hasn’t responded to me.’ ‘Well, do you understand he’s coaching a game right now?’ … So, it was tough to juggle it all, but the constituents, the ones who really didn’t like me, they made sure they made my life difficult.”
Brown still lives in New Jersey, still makes that long commute because his two daughters, Mackenzie and Ryan, are still in middle school where his wife, Trisha, works. Plus, he loves it there.
Brown is enjoying the short trips home this week, but it won’t last long.
“It’s great to be here in Philly again, but I would never give up my 125-mile drive to see ‘The Wolfpack’ and see Chris [Horton] and T.J. [Weist] every day,” Brown said. “It’s heaven, really. They say, in ‘Field of Dreams,’ ‘Is this Iowa or heaven?’ Baltimore is heaven for me.”