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Estes, Bears Have Reason To Celebrate

Thursday, November 15, 2012


Phil Estes will be wrapping up his 15th year as head football coach at Brown University on Saturday when the Bears host the Columbia Lions at Brown Stadium. And it may be the best coaching job of his very successful career.

In what may have been the University’s quickest coaching hire back in the fall of 1997, it took then Brown Athletic Director David Roach about 24 hours to hire Estes as Mark Whipple’s successor after Whipple left to take the UMass job at the end of the season. Roach obviously knew what he had in Estes.

In his 15 seasons at the helm, Estes has led the Brown football program to unprecedented success winning three of the program’s four Ivy League Championships (1999, 2005, 2008). His teams have finished first, second or third in the league in 11 of his first 14 seasons and he has won more championships (3) than he has had losing seasons (2).

So why does this season rank among his best?

Phil Estes

Simple. Brown has been riddled by injury more than year in recent memory. And we’re talking about serious and, in many cases, season-ending injuries to key starters.

Just the running back position alone has been decimated by injury.

Coming into the season, Brown’s identity on offense was going to be to pound the ball between the tackles with senior tail back Spiro Thedhosi which would then set up the play-action passing game for quarterback Patrick Donnelly.

However, after racking up what is still a team-leading 347 yards rushing in his first three games of the season, Theodhosi had his foot broken in the opening minutes of their fourth game of the year at URI requiring season-ending surgery.

That wasn’t the only injury to that position. Second string running back Mark Kachmer who had been hampered by a high ankle sprain all season, suffered a torn pectoral muscle lifting weights after the URI game ending his season as well.

Converted full back Cody Taulbee was to be the team’s feature tail back the following week at Princeton where he went down early in the game with an ankle injury leaving fourth string tail back Jeffrey Izon to man the position.

Izon, himself, sprained his ankle midway through the year and has been limping his way through each game ever since.

Brown was so deperate for help at the tail back position that it took junior Jordan Reisner from the defensive side of the football and placed him at running back. Reisner rewarded the coaches faith in him by running for 193 yards and 2 touchdowns in a win over Cornell, a game in which he suffered a broken wrist and has essentially not been heard from ever since.

Brown also lost it’s best offensive lineman left tackle Jack Templeton with a torn ACL against URI and has had to deal with other injuries at the offensive line, tight end, and defensive line positions.

This is why it is a minor miracle to think that the Bears are a win away from a second consecutive (7-3) season.

To his credit, Estes won’t wine or complain about the rash of injuries to his team. He fully understands that it’s part of the game. Instead, he expects others to step in and step up which has pretty much been the case this season. But that can only happen if you have built a strong program which Estes certainly has at Brown.

But for that to happen, everyone has to buy into what the head coach is preeching which is certainly the case at Brown.

As former Brown full back Mike Wall once said, "with coach Estes it wasn't just that he cared about us as football players, he cared about us as people too.  That's the type of guy players will run through a wall for."

Estes' coaching staff is also a testament to the type of person he is.  While many of his assistants could probably take higher paying jobs elsewhere, they choose to stay at Brown because they enjoy working for their boss with whom they all have a great relationship.

Saturday Estes will see his 28 seniors get recognized before the final game of their careers at Brown. And it’s no coincidence that this senior class has posted winning seasons in each of their four years on College Hill.

Defensive back A.J. Cruz is at the head of the class of 2013. He will undoubtedly finish his stellar career with the Bears as a 4-time All-Ivy player with three first team All-Ivy selections.

AJ Cruz & Ross Walthall

Here is the entire football class of 2013, each of which has contributed greatly to the success of the program in their own ways: Malcolm Andry, Nathan Bernstein, Dimitrius Burnett, Daniel Casey, Patxi Colbern, AJ Cruz, Patrick Donnelly, Jonah Fay, Stephen Fox, Anthony Franciosi, Jackson Freeman, Alex Harris, Cole Hooper, Jeffrey Izon, Mark Kachmer, Tellef Lundevall, Nate Meyer, Luke Miller, Matt Miller, Ben Noury, Adam Pelzer, John Ryan, Victor Showalter, Jack Templeton, Spiro Theodhosi, Ross Walthall, Reed Watne, and Stephen Zambetti.

“I really admire these guys and appreciate what they have accomplished,” said Estes. “A lot of people measure success by how many championships you’ve won but, to me, it’s how you handle adversity. This group has had to deal with a lot and they have stayed focused and battled through it. Their leadership has been tremendous!”

Estes also wants people to know that these players are more than just good football players. “We try to be the very best we can be on the field,” he said. “But just as important to me is what these young men are doing in the classroom and in the community.”

Seniors Ross Walthall and Jack Templeton along with junior Michael Yules and Ade Oyalowo recently earned First Team Capital One Academic All-District honors and will now be placed on the national ballot for Academic All-American consideration.

The entire team also recently concluded its annual bench-a-thon for the American Cancer Society where they once again raised thousands of dollars for that great cause.

The team also is involved in helping the children who attend the Vartan Gregorian School at Fox Point in Providence, something they have done for many years. And junior defensive back Matt Shannon donated bone marrow from both of his hips to help someone in need of a bone marrow transplant.

Saturday may be the final game of the season for the Brown Bears and, for some, it may be the final game of their careers. But there’s plenty of reasons to celebrate this Brown football program. They do things the right way and they do them very well.


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