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PREP FOOTBALL: Retiring Brown honored and 'roasted' at ceremony at John Hardin (02/11)

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By Chuck Jones

Mark Brown touched countless lives during his 36-year coaching career and many of those people were on hand Sunday afternoon at John Hardin High School to honor the former football coach.

The two-hour reception was attended by family, friends and colleagues as they came to pay homage to a man who resurrected Marion County and Nelson County and built John Hardin into the program it is today.

“It’s really nice to see that many people here today,” Brown said. “There was a player here from my first Marion County team. It started for me a long time ago, so this was special.”

Former John Hardin players Daniel Cameron and Jerome Manson, former assistants Chad Lewis, Andrew Hundley, Kelly Fisher and Glenn Spalding and former John Hardin principal Brent Holtsclaw shared how Brown helped shape their lives, and even roasted the former coach Comedy Central style.

Also on hand were Russell County coach Bill Sharp, Warren Central coach Mike Rogers and Graves County coach Lance Gregory. All three were assistants for Brown – Sharp at Marion County and Nelson County, Rogers at Nelson County and Gregory at John Hardin.

Cameron and Manson, who both graduated in 2004, recalled their playing days and how they took the lessons they learned on the football field and applied them to life.

Manson said Brown placed an importance on doing things the right way, which has contributed to his success off the field.

Cameron said Brown’s commitment to football was only overshadowed by his dedication to his players.

Fisher, Hundley and Spalding shared humorous stories about Brown. Fisher and Hundley, who both worked for Brown at John Hardin, recalled memories of building a program, which didn’t have any facilities.

Spalding, who played for Brown at Marion County and then was an assistant for him at Marion County and Nelson County, remembered Brown’s first career win – a 7-6 victory over Bardstown.

Spalding said Brown was meticulous about preparation which was the key to his success. He said the traits which made Brown successful on the football field made him an excellent classroom teacher.

Holtsclaw, now Bardstown Independent Schools’ superintendent, was responsible for bringing Brown to John Hardin. He told a story of how he went to Brown’s house to make a recruiting pitch – even bringing Brown a hat and pullover.

Holtsclaw said a win over Glasgow in the Bulldogs’ second season began the program down the winning path it’s been on. He applauded Brown not only as a coach, but as an administrator. Brown retired as athletic director and vice-principal at John Hardin in January of 2008.

After a losing season the first year when the program didn’t have any seniors, the Bulldogs have had 11 consecutive winning seasons. They have won 11 or more games six consecutive seasons and seven of the last eight.

John Hardin has finished the regular season 10-0 the last four years and five of the last six. The Bulldogs have won 64 of their last 65 regular season games. They’ve won or shared the district championship seven of the last eight years and they’ve claimed five straight region championships. The Bulldogs reached the 2009 Class 5-A state championship, falling to Fort Thomas Highlands.

Prior to John Hardin, Brown spent 11 years at Marion County, the last seven as the head coach. He left Marion County for Nelson County, where he spent 13 years and won the Class 4-A state championship in 1996.

Brown finished his career with a 272-121 record, including going 116-34 at John Hardin. He is tied for 11th on the KHSAA’s career win list with Mike Holcomb.

Brown said his family has been supportive his entire career. His wife, Lucy, hasn’t missed many games, and his sons, Cody and Ross, played for Brown at Nelson County and both were assistants at different times at John Hardin.

Following the ceremony, Brown said he’s looking forward to retirement which he said will include time with his two grandchildren and golf.

“It’s starting to sink in,” Brown said. “It’s scary. This is closure. I’ve had one foot in and one foot out, but now it’s over. I don’t know what I’m going to do next. I’ll just play it by ear. I know I’m going to miss it because it always has been enjoyable for me.”

Chuck Jonescan be reached at (270) 505-1759 or cjones@thenewsenterprise.com.