PEMBROKE — Leaving Dillon High School wasn’t an easy decision for Robbie Brown, but when he had the chance to return to Robeson County it became a little clearer for the seasoned coach.
Brown, a Rowland native and graduate from The University of North Carolina at Pembroke, spent 29 years coaching with Jackie Hayes at the football powerhouse in South Carolina.
This season he returns to his old stomping grounds as the new offensive coordinator for Purnell Swett.
“It’s really nostalgic in a way,” Brown said. “The great is it’s only a 25-minute drive from Dillon, and I have to go through Rowland, so it’s like I’m commuting back and forth to college again. But it’s familiar and that’s helped me get adjusted quickly. That and the friendliness of everybody.”
Brown comes to Pembroke fresh off contributing to the Wildcats’ four straight state championships .
That winning pedigree caught the attention of senior McKinley Strickland, the Rams’ top receiver entering the season.
“It’s given us a lot of confidence because he’s coming from a winning school and showing us the way to compete and play,” Strickland said.
Head coach Jon Sherman is also excited to have Brown on staff, saying the addition has been “a breath of fresh air.”
“The experience has been great,” Sherman said. “I sleep a little easier, that’s for sure. He knows what we want to do on offense, and he’ll have our guys in the right position to make plays.”
As he looks to help the Rams become a more potent offensive unit, Brown said he likes the direction of the team under Sherman.
“Coach Sherman has planted the seeds to have a great program,” Brown said. “He’s bringing people in to help, which is another big thing. But the biggest thing he’s done is he’s got the kids bought in to what we’re trying to do as a whole. I’m really looking forward to this season because I think you’ll see some positive differences.”
Brown also had high praise for the pieces he’ll be working with in his first season leading the offense.
“I’ve compared them to where I came from (in Dillon),” he said. “There are a couple of exceptional players in Dillon, and if you take those guys off the field, I really don’t see that much of a difference — and that’s a good thing.
“There are playmakers here. Offensively, we’re looking forward to scoring some points and keeping the pressure off that defense a little bit.”
Despite a quarterback battle between Desmond Davis and Luke Oxendine leading into the season, Brown is confident both will continue to grow.
“They’re learning,” he said. “They’re getting better, but they know they have some work to do.”
As Brown and the Rams prepare for the season opener at Pine Forest, it’s clear he’s happy to be on board.
“It’s been great because there have been several people that have helped me out,” he said. “The coaching staff has made me feel at home and the players have been a joy. I know I’m home now.”
Rodd Baxley can be reached at 910-416-5182. Follow him on Twitter @RoddBaxley.