Just when we thought Northwestern and Central's rivalry might be getting a little stale (the Rockets have owned the Bulls lately and won three state titles in four years) things have suddenly gotten a little more interesting.
Saturday, Northwestern hired Eddie "Rabbit" Brown to fill its head coaching vacancy. Brown, the 44-year old father of Pittsburgh Steelers star receiver Antonio Brown, not only graduated from Central, but he grew up playing with and against Central coach Roland Smith (a Northwestern grad) since the age of six.
"We were teammates for a long time at the Northwest Boys Club," recalled Smith. "Then when it came time to go to high school, I went to the West and he went to Central. If he's honest with you he'll tell you I won the head-to-head battles. I shut him down [laughter]."
Brown, tabbed the greatest player in Arena League Football History with more than 12,000 receiving yards and 300 touchdowns as a receiver for the Albany Firebirds, comes to Northwestern from Wyandotte High School in Kansas City, his first stint as a head coach.
Before that, though, Brown and Smith would often help each other when Smith coached at Northwestern. Brown recruited former Northwestern linebacker Lavonte David to Fort Scott Community College where he was an assitant for a few years. David is now in his second year with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Brown has hired former Central, Dillard and Deerfield Beach coach Manny Martin to be his defensive coordinator. Brown told me there will be a bunch of locals on his coaching staff.
"In s all about who you know," Brown said. "When I got wind there may be an opportunity at Northwestern I reached out to the athletic director Andre Williams and let him know if there was an opportunity I wanted in. I submitted my resume and today they named me head coach.
"I can't wait to get started."
Brown said he'll be in South Florida until Wednesday before returning home to Kansas City. He'll return to South Florida on March 3rd and then begin preparing for spring football.
What does he plan on doing to help Northwestern, coming off a 5-5 season, catch up with Central?
"Right now I plan on making sure we’re together, one family, one direction, inserting an atmosphere of being competitive," he said. "Our most important goal is to get everyone on the same page."
Brown said his son is hoping to run a football camp at Northwestern sometime in the spring.
"No matter who is on the sideline Northwestern-Central is always going to be a rivalry," Smith said. "I’m sure he won’t be taking it easy on us just because he's playing his alma mater."
-- MANNY NAVARRO