West Orange High School’s new football coach is reaching out to the community in hopes of finding financial supporters and creating stronger relationships for the players.
When Dee Brown accepted the head coach’s position at West Orange High School, he knew his role would extend far beyond that.
“When I took this job I knew wholeheartedly that the platform wasn’t just to coach football,” Brown said. “I know my strengths and my calling. And if I can use a sport that I played at the highest level — to now be able to use that same sport to engage communities to form bonding relationships, to formulate examples of what real support and commitment really looks like —these kids are just going to benefit from all of the great ideas and all the heartfelt gestures, the collaboration of great minds for one common goal.”
The coach, who once played for the NFL, said one way to accomplish this is to connect the high school football players with folks in the community — and the idea of the football team hosting a coffee kickoff was born.
“We had our meeting to see how we could help and what his goals were for the year, and he mentioned he wanted to do a community coffee because he is eager and willing to get involved in our community and partner with businesses and others in the community to help enrich the young men on our team and also to utilize the capabilities of the team to help the community,” said Dana Wells, event chairperson and Quarterback Club board member. “He really is invested in creating cohesiveness with the school and the community. We are the football team and the school for our hometown.”
The team has had challenges in recent years. In August 2017, Windermere High School opened, taking Warrior players, along with some of the revenues associated with game attendance. A month later, Hurricane Irma struck Central Florida, bringing down two stadium light poles and spreading shattered glass all over the synthetic turf football field. The Warriors lost admission and concession income because they had to play elsewhere for the season and experienced a lull in game attendance.
It’s time to rally around the home team, Brown said, and additional funds are necessary for the success of the football program.
“The WOHS football field and stadium is one of the biggest and most hospitable athletic (facilities) in all of West Orange County,” Wells said. “It noticeably is in need of some repair.”
Brown said much of the football equipment is outdated, and he would like to be able to purchase everything from weight-room equipment to an industrial washing machine to an ice machine.
Brown also would like to convert an empty space into a student-athlete academic wing.
“We have high expectations for this population, yet we’re not taking into consideration that every environment is not conducive for higher learning,” he said. “Sports and education — in my world, that’s how I know how to conquer success.”
COFFEE AND DOUGHNUTS
The Aug. 6 coffee will kick off the Warriors’ fall season, which begins with a preseason game Aug. 16 at Bishop Moore Catholic High School. A video presentation will highlight newspaper clips documenting the history of the Warrior football teams.
The coffee will include a display of some of West Orange’s trophies, including one from the annual Ol’ Orange Crate Game against Dr. Phillips High. Sponsorship representatives will be available to sign people up for packages, spirit wear items will be for sale, and attendees can meet and talk with coaches, three of whom have NFL experience. All who attend will receive a football schedule magnet.
The guest speaker is Orange County Undersheriff Mark Canty, a WOHS graduate who attended college on a football scholarship.
Brown will introduce his coaching staff, and those with NFL experience will speak on their transition and why they chose West Orange High.
Several Warrior players past and present will speak to guests, too, including Jaylon Carlise, a West Orange senior and team captain who currently has more than 20 football scholarship offers, as well as former Warrior standout Eddie McDoom.
Brown would like to see Tanner Hall filled with a supportive community.
“I want the community all interested and invested to be an advocate for sport education and higher learning just as I am,” he said.
Brown is a 1996 Lake Brantley High School graduate and was twice named Central Florida Player of the Year. He earned a football scholarship to Syracuse University, where he started as quarterback before switching to running back. When he left Syracuse, he held the second all-time high in total touchdowns and the fourth all-time high in total yards rushed.
He was drafted by the Carolina Panthers in the 2001 NFL Draft and spent six seasons with the National Football League with the Panthers, Steelers, Browns and Chiefs. He retired in 2007.
Brown coached high school football in North Carolina for eight years, four of them as head coach, and his team won two state championships.
He moved to Central Florida in April when he was hired for the West Orange coaching position.