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|Brasher follows Reid to Kansas City|
Tommy Brasher makes no bones about it, even if those bones may be a little bit more brittle now than they were almost 60 years ago when he was playing football at Ferriday High.
"I may not be the smartest defensive line coach in the NFL, but I am certainly one of the oldest."
The 72-year-old Brasher is joining his former head football coach Andy Reid in Kansas City as the Chiefs' defensive line coach.
Brasher coached the Philadelphia Eagles defensive line for the last four games last year before Reid, who was fired at Philadelphia before being hired at Kansas City offered an invitation to join his Chiefs' coaching staff.
"I am having a blast," Brasher said. "There is something special when you think it's all over, and then you get another opportunity. The question is how long am I going to do this, and the answer is I really don't know. I will not coach any longer than I feel that I am effective. It's all about Andy. I just want him to have the best, and if I don't think that I am doing it well enough to benefit him, I'm out. I don't need a job, and I wasn't looking for a job, but I have one, and I am going to 'empty my bucket.'"
Brasher was named defensive line coach for Philadelphia in 1985, then moved on to the until 1989. After this he went to the to coach for one year in 1990. He coached the Defensive line from 1992-1998. Then he went back to the Philadelphia Eagles from 1999, until 2005, when he retired.
Brasher was saddened to hear the passing of legendary Ferriday Bulldog coach Johnny "Red" Robertson on February 5.
"Coach Robertson was not only my coach, but my boss as well," Brasher said. "I worked for him at the new swimming pool, and I just loved being around him. I made $15 a week, and I thought that I had the best job going. Ferriday will always be a special place for me."
Brasher said a lot of what he learned about football came from Robertson.
"We have a very varied game now, but it is still a man whipping another man game, and that is what he believed in," Brasher said. "That is what those great teams that he coached did. We didn't trick anybody, we just whipped them."
Brasher said he owes Robertson a lot for his success in life.
"He not only taught us how to play football, he taught us how to be winners and men," Brasher said. "He just wouldn't tolerate sloppiness, and I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to be in his presence. He reinforced everything that my dad and another special friend, Arch Turner Jr., told me and I still think about all three of them daily. Mr. Turner kind of took me under his wing. He let me stay at his house with Sonny, and let me work for him and pick up a few bucks. My dad was one of 14 kids, and if you wanted to spend money, you had to make money."
Brasher said he hopes the town of Ferriday does something in honor of Robertson.
"I hope that Ferriday will name a building, a street or even a school for Coach Robertson," he said. "He certainly put Ferriday on the map, and deserves to be recognized for all that he did."
Brasher said he is excited about the Kansas City job.
"We were brought here to make things better, and it all appears to be centered around getting a quarterback," he said. "Andy knows how to do this thing, so I have no doubt that we will get it done. I didn't get back into coaching to lose. Coach Red Robertson taught me to hate losing."
Brasher, a El Dorado, Ar., native who is a member of the Arkansas Hall of Fame spent two years in Ferriday.
"It was a lot tougher leaving Ferriday than it was El Dorado," Brasher said. "When you were a kid in Ferriday, your whole life was Ferriday Bulldogs. There were a lot of people patting us on the back, but we didn't pay much attention to that."
Brasher's family moved from El Dorado, Ar., to Ferriday when Brasher was in the eighth grade.
"My dad (Ferry "Fuzzy" Brasher) was transferred here for two years," Brasher said
Ferriday High's football team just won its second straight state championship in 1954 and Brasher would be looking to crack the lineup as a freshman in 1955.
"It was kinda tough just coming in because that little town was pretty clannish," Brasher said. "I just got up and went to school and kept my mouth shut."
Brasher was about 5-foot-9, 160 pounds as an eighth-grader and grew to about 5-10, 175 the following year.
That team included seniors Max Fugler, Manson Nelson, Guy Hill, Tommy Purvis and Buddy Long, who would all go on to sign Division I scholarships.
"Max had a lot of maturity for a high school student," Brasher said. "You never see that kind of maturity in a high schooler nowadays."
The Bulldogs entered the season with a 25-game winning streak.
"The streak was very important to all of us, but we never talked about it," Brasher said. "We put a lot of pressure on ourselves as far as one guy making sure the next guy was doing the right thing."
Brasher returned to El Dorado his junior year.
"My mom and dad were ready to go back home," Brasher said. "There were a certain amount of people who thought El Dorado was recruiting me, but that didn't go on back then. It was really hard leaving. Ferriday's football team was very important to me."
There were no playoffs at the time in Arkansas, only a Big 9 Conference consisting of the nine biggest schools, similar to the Big 8 in Mississippi before they went to playoffs. Sportswriters voted on the mythical state champion.
"Our only loss my junior year was to Little Rock Central, 28-0," Brasher said. "That was by far the best high school team I had ever seen. They had 4,000 kids in their high school. It wasn't even that close."
El Dorado went unbeaten in Brasher's senior year, tying the defending state champion Little Rock Central team, which had two other losses. El Dorado was voted No. 1.
Brasher ended up losing only one game through high school. In the eighth grade, his junior high team in El Dorado went unbeaten.
"We just assumed we were going to win," Brasher said of the seemingly invincible teams he played on. "That was the attitude in Ferriday of the whole school and the whole town. We knew we would be champions."
Brasher was recruited by Arkansas, Ole Miss, LSU, Oklahoma State, Tulane, Louisiana State and several other schools.
"It came down between LSU and Arkansas," he said.
Brasher was an all-conference selection as a linebacker at Arkansas from 1962-63.
Brasher was a college teammate of Cowboys' owner Jerry Jones and former Dolphins and Cowboys head coach Jimmy Johnson.
"They were younger than me," Brasher said. "I got married after my sophomore year so I didn't live in a dorm with those guys."
Brasher was not drafted.
"I was too small and I ended up tearing up my knee my senior year," he said.
He then began a long, successful coaching career that has now brought him to Kansas City.
"I knew in the ninth grade that I wanted to be a coach," he said.
Brasher returned to his hometown of El Dorado to coach high school football as an assistant for one year.
"Actually I was an assistant coach in everything," he said with a laugh.
After a brief stint as an assistant high school coach in Galveston, Brasher took the head football coaching job at Hot Springs High School.
He then joined the Arkansas coaching staff in 1970. Then cam assistant coaching jobs at Virginia Tech, Louisiana-Monroe (1974 and 76), the Shreveport Captains of the WFL in 1975 and SMU from 1977 to 1981.
He then made the jump to the NFL in 1982 as an assistant coach with New England.
In 2001 Brasher was awarded the Eagles Ed Block Courage Award, presented to selected players or coaches in the NFL who are voted by their teammates as role models of inspiration, sportsmanship, and courage. Named in memory of Ed Block, a much-beloved humanitarian and trainer for the , the award is administered by the Ed Block Courage Award Foundation.
Brasher received the award after being told he had cancer in the side of his neck just below his right ear. It had been growing for weeks, ever since he felt a small bump while taking a shower at training camp. As the months went by, the bump got bigger and bigger until he went to see a doctor and the doctor uttered the sentence that brings everybody to their knees.
"It's malignant," Brasher was told.
Doctors cut out the cancer which had already invaded his salivary gland. In a 7-hour operation, doctors removed the gland.
But that didn't slow down Brasher, who showed up in the Eagles' coaching booth for an away contest against the New York Giants.
But Brasher was not content to just sit in the coaches box. When he saw the players virtually ignoring what Dave Taub, the assistant who stepped in for him on the field, he went into action.
At halftime, Brasher took the elevato down to the basement and strutted out onto the field. He finished the game on the field.
Then days after returning from New York, Brasher had another surgery — this time to remove 67 lymph nodes. The result is a 6-inch long, vertical scar behind his ear.
"I never feared for my life, I didn't have time," Brasher said. "I needed to be on the field."
The doctors put him on an aggressive recovery plan. Every weekday at 7 a.m. he had to go for a radiation treatment. He did this for six weeks until he had undergone 30 treatments.
He never stopped coaching. The playoffs were coming, and the Eagles were on the first of four runs to the NFC Championship Game. Brasher refused to take time off. And when the offseason came, he worked right through that as well.
Last year he was told the cancer was gone. He greeted this news just as he had the diagnosis.
He had players to coach.
And the last of the old football tough guys lives on.
Brasher remains as a consultant for the Eagles after retiring in 2006., suggesting offensive strategy against each Philadelphia opponent.
Coaching in the NFL is a lot of fun," he said. "Andy Reid is a great man and great coach. I had to retire because it was tough with the radiation. Cancer changed my energy and stamina."
But, needless to say, he's glad to be back.
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