A New Assignment
Oct. 31, 2001
by Trent Packer
University of Virginia special teams coach Corwin Brown entered uncharted territory upon his arrival in Charlottesville. The former National Football League special teams standout assumed the reins of UVa’s special teams in January of this year. At that point, he became the first Virginia assistant coach assigned solely to special teams in the program’s history.
Brown retired from the Detroit Lions after the 2000 season, giving him the opportunity to coach full time. Having spent time playing in head coach Al Groh’s defenses with the New England Patriots and New York Jets, Brown was given the opportunity to make Virginia his first coaching stop. He arrived with an extensive resume of special teams accomplishments to draw on.
“With my experience on special teams, I can tell [the players] something, and they know I have a pretty good idea of what I’m talking about,” Brown says.
In order to establish a strong special teams unit, every player on that unit has to be ready to lay it all on the line come fourth down. In that vain, one of Brown’s first orders of business was to help his players understand what it takes to be a successful special teams player.
“You’ve got to live for fourth down,” Brown says. “When third down comes around, you want to have guys pumped on the sideline waiting for the next down to come around. When you get that chance to go out there and play, you have to get after them.”
Brown knows precisely what this feeling is like. As a member of the Jets, he was the first alternate for the 1998 Prowl Bowl. He notched at least 10 special teams tackles in every year of his professional career except his rookie season in 1993. Last season Brown made 32 tackles for the Lions, including 10 special teams stops.His arrival in Charlottesville has engendered an extremely positive response from his players. Not only do Virginia’s experienced special teams players have their own full time coach for the first time in their UVa careers, they were given a coach who is a proven player in his own right and knows what it takes to be a competitive special teams performer.
“There is a lot of enthusiasm among the guys,” Brown says. “It doesn’t matter if you are a star or not, your team is going to be defined by the special teams unit.”
Personnel wise, Brown inherited a number of players who have had significant experience on the college level. Foremost among those players are place-kicker David Greene and punter Mike Abrams. Greene is handling kickoff duties for his fourth consecutive season and is Virginia’s place-kicker for the second consecutive year, while Abrams is in the midst of his second season as the full-time punter.
“[Having two experienced kickers] makes you feel good,” Brown says. “You want to have guys who can kick, otherwise you are not going to be any good. David and Mike are both good guys with good heads on their shoulders.”
As far as Brown’s vision for Virginia’s special teams units, the first-year coach wants his squad to be ferocious from the get-go. Although he is working with players who have not had the benefit of a full-time coach before, Brown feels that by playing hard, his teams can be effective.
“We are going to try and put an emphasis on [special teams] and do it right the first time,” Brown says. “We are going to try and be an attacking special teams unit. The biggest thing is we’ve got to be good. Any time you put an emphasis on something, you want to do it hard and do it well.”
So what does that mean for fans of Virginia football come Saturdays? According to Brown, the proof will be in the pudding.
“When you get good, the fans will notice,” Brown says. “When you start blocking punts, you will notice the improvements we have made. When you are just average or mediocre, nobody cares. We want to make people care. We want to make it so fans are excited on fourth down because they know we are going to do something crazy.”