When Zane Brown left Beeville to become the defensive coordinator at Fort Bend Willowridge after the 2017-18 school year, the likelihood of him ever returning rested somewhere between slim and none.
And when Chris Soza accepted the job as the head coach, to paraphrase Muhammad Ali, Slim seemed to have left town.
Then, as luck would have it, fate intervened.
One call led to another, which led to another, which led to another, which ultimately landed Brown back in Beeville as the Trojans’ new defensive coordinator.
“I was super shocked. I didn’t even know coach Soza, there wasn’t a connection or anything,” the 28-year-old said about getting the call from Soza to return.
“… For him to reach out and offer that position without us knowing each other, I guess that speaks volumes to what other people are saying.”
The former Texas A&M-Kingsville All-American defensive tackle will bring his 3-4 look to Beeville after a year that saw him produce one of the biggest defensive turnarounds in the state.
Brown took a Willowridge defense that had given up 400-plus yards and 45 points per game in 2017 and turned it into a unit that gave up 242 yards and 23.8 points per game in 2018.
It ranked as the 13th-best turnaround in the state, according to Dave Campbell’s Texas Football.
“It was fun,” Brown said of his experience at Willowridge. “I had a good time. I learned a lot from that experience as a coordinator, just how to call a game, how to work with the kids, how to get coaches to buy in to what we’re running, stuff like that.”
He will inherit a defense in Beeville that gave up 25.1 points per game last year, but lost a bulk of its defensive leaders.
“We’re going to be able to bring pressure from different areas and we’re going to be able to line up and show different fronts and attack teams that way,” Brown said of his defensive philosophy. “On the back end, we’re going to play match quarters, a coverage a lot of teams are playing these days with the spread offenses.
“It’s a really good defense and the kids have a lot of fun in it.”
The Fort Bend native moved back to Beeville with his wife of seven years, Brittany, and their 3-year-old daughter, Amaya, not long after he accepted the job offer from Soza, whose son-in-law, Daniel Ramirez, played with Brown at TAMU-Kingsville.
He will teach math at Moreno Junior High and Brittany will teach business at A.C. Jones High.
“She was ecstatic. She was happy. She enjoyed it here a lot. We both did,” Brown said about his wife’s reaction when he told her that he had been offered the defensive coordinator position by Soza.
“The community was good to us. And her parents are right down the road in Goliad. … I think, instantly, we knew we wanted to come back.”
Soza didn’t have to do much convincing to the district higher-ups when trying to sell bringing Brown back as a teacher.
The former Academic All-American was named one of the teachers of the year by Beeville ISD during his last year in the district in 2017-18.
“You hear athletic directors talk about it all the time, you’ve got to be a great coach in the classroom,” Brown said about teaching.
“Coaching is teaching. If you’re a good coach and you can get out here and teach, you can do the same thing in the classroom.
“I treat my kids in the classroom the same way I teach my players. I take pride in having my students be successful, watching them grow.”
And he fit right in with the Sozas, a family of math teachers.
“Math teachers have a different way of thinking. We’re all thinking analytically, thinking numbers and stats,” said Brown. “Eric (Soza) and I will just bounce stuff off each other; we’ll be looking at something and the numbers will just pop right out.
“… That’s been cool to be around people who have the same type of thought processes as you.”
And like Soza with the famed GATA battle cry, Brown has his own favorite acronym – EEP.
“One of the biggest things I talk about is EEP. If I post something, I’m usually tagging it with EEP, and what that means is energy, effort and passion,” he said. “I’m telling the kids every day, ‘I can’t coach your energy, effort and passion. That’s something you’ve got to come with every single day.’”
Brown’s thoughts about returning can be summed up in one short and simple sentence.
“I’m just excited to be back and blessed to be in this situation.”