When North Carolina A&T decided to shockingly part ways with longtime coach Sam Washington after four years of success that included a pair of Black college national championships, athletics director Earl M. Hilton III had one person in mind for the job.
A couple of text message exchanges and phone calls targeted William & Mary defensive coordinator and assistant coach Vincent Brown.
Brown, said Hilton, checked a lot of boxes during the evaluation process. A big one was a significant tie to the conference N.C. A&T would be joining in 2023.
Several weeks later, Brown — who played collegiately in the SWAC at Mississippi Valley State and carved out a long NFL career before becoming a college coach — seemed the appropriate choice to lead the Aggies’ transition to the Colonial Athletic Conference.
“I made one phone call because I knew there was one man who had the experience, integrity, character, relationships, leadership, and vision that we needed in order to move successfully into the Colonial Athletic Association as a football program,” Hilton said Monday during Brown’s introductory press conference.
After falling one win short of claiming the Big South championship in its second and final season in the conference, Brown explained that the Aggies — because of the talent on its roster — are in a position to be “extremely competitive” in a league that sent five teams to the FCS playoffs.
“The CAA is a tremendous league. Tremendous coaches. They allocate significant resources to recruiting very talented players,” he said. “And having a chance to look at the A&T program and the talent level, we’ll be able to step into the conference and be extremely competitive. There are a lot of talented players in this program, many talented players that I’ve watched compete against CAA-caliber teams. So I am confident and comfortable that we will do our absolute best to make this transition as seamless as possible.”
When asked why the North Carolina A&T job was one he considered, Brown indicated that the school’s academic and athletic culture made it attractive.
“The football tradition in the history of success here,” he said. “It’s phenomenal. Lastly, it is just the history of this great university in developing people to change lives, and I feel like at this point in my coaching career, I didn’t want to take a job because I wanted to be a head coach. It had to be a perfect alignment from an academic, an athletics excellence, and a cultural perspective.”
Not lost on Brown and the Aggies is the loss of impact players from the 2022 roster, including Big South leading rusher Bhayshul Tuten, who entered the transfer portal after rushing for 1,363 yards and compiling 1,703 all-purpose yards and 17 touchdowns.
The Aggies will also be without linebacker Jacob Roberts who led the Aggies this season with 74 tackles.
“I understand what our needs are,” said Brown. “I saw the kids that signed in the early signing period, some really talented players,” he said. “I will convene with the existing staff, will talk about our remaining needs and we’ll go out and find the very best players to complement what we’ve already lost.”
Ultimately Brown will be judged on how the program under his direction will fare and progress, especially in what will be a tougher conference.
How will the new-look Aggies look under the veteran assistant with both college and pro coaching experience?
“The team will be disciplined. It will be tough. It will be focused on eliminating things that cause you to lose games,” said Brown. “We plan to build a focused, passionate team. We will always fit the scheme around the talented players down here. If we have a dynamic quarterback and a bunch of receivers, we’ll be wide-open and throw the ball around.
“If we’ve got great running backs and a strong offensive line, we’re going to line up and pound the rock. You have to tailor your schemes around the talent in your program rather than the other way around.”
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