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Woodbridge HS graduate Austin Brown is in assistant football coach for the 2017 season at Forest Park.

After returning to the area in March of 2016, Austin Brown wanted to stay involved in football. His playing career was over following a gruesome injury the previous August while in camp with the New Orleans Saints. But his desire was not.

He trained athletes privately, while also working camps in Woodbridge, Manassas and Gainesville. Then came an opportunity to coach at the high school level after Brown did a strength, agility and conditioning session this winter at a quarterbacks camp run by Forest Park head coach Dan Bruton.

Bruton asked Brown to consider joining the Bruins’ staff as a defensive line coach. Brown fit the bill, first as an all-state lineman at Woodbridge and then as a standout tackle at Miami University (Ohio) before earning training camp invitations with the Houston Texans and New Orleans and playing in the Arena Football League.

“I had an opening but with the type of guy Austin is I would have made a spot even if I didn't,” Bruton said.

But before committing, Brown needed to check his schedule. At the time, he’d been a substitute teacher at Potomac Middle School since December, but sought a full-time job.

Once he was hired as a health and physical education instructor at Saunders Middle School to start the 2017-18 school year, Brown agreed to help the Bruins.

Other local prep coaches inquired about Brown’s availability.

But as he weighed his options, including the chance to coach at his alma mater as well as at Hylton, Brown liked the idea of working for an up-and-coming program rather than an established one.

“Those programs have storied pasts,” Brown said. “The coaches there have built great programs already. Heading to Forest Park gives myself and the other coaches a chance to establish this program. I didn’t like the idea of piggybacking off someone else’s success.”

The 25-year-old Brown still looks like he could step out on the field and play, but he’s moved on without regret.

“I’m back to where I can jump around,” Brown said. “I could rush the quarterback, but not do it over and over.”

Brown’s football career ended during the preseason with the New Orleans Saints. The Saints signed Brown after playing with the Orlando Predators of the Arena Football League.

On his first day of practice in full pads, Brown attempted to twist past an offensive lineman in a one-on-one drill at the Saints’ training camp Aug. 18, 2015 and got his right cleat stuck in the ground.

The awkward motion ruptured his patella tendon. The injury was so severe that Brown’s knee cap was jammed up into his right thigh.

Brown was carted off the field that day and eventually placed on injured reserve for the whole season as rehabbed a knee so damaged he couldn’t even drive for three to four months. In March of 2016, the Saints released him. Brown wasn’t surprised by the decision. He understood it was business. Brown was unable to play and the Saints had to move on.

The injury was one of many Brown had suffered over the years, including a back injury that forced him to miss most of sophomore season at Miami.

“My body was telling me it’s time,” Brown said.

Brown moved back to Prince William County and took a job in sales with a start-up football helmet/equipment business based out of Dallas as he transitioned into the work force. Wanting to teach kids, Brown settled on a profession he felt called to and entered the education field.

In his first season as high school assistant coach, Brown is loving the opportunity to work with younger players.

“We have a great group of kids over here that are hungry and anxious to get after it this season,” Brown said. “And they listen to everything we have to say as coaches and take it to heart.”

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