SCOTTSDALE — Ray Brown walked onto the field, grabbed the whistle hanging around his neck and quickly blew it. Capturing the attention of his players, the coach’s intimidating voice echoed throughout the stadium as he directed them to start running laps.
Just under 100 degrees on a Tuesday evening at 6 p.m., and not a minute later, practice had started for Arcadia High’s football team.
Brown’s voice continued to echo throughout the 90-minute practice as he corrected his players’ karaoke warm-up techniques through half-jokes and full-belly laughter, which was rooted in a mutual respect and also reinforced the responsibilities required of each player.
“Sometimes the most important ability is being responsible,” Brown said. “You really have to participate in football events if you’re on the football team, practice is not optional. You have to come and participate to play.”
In just his second season at the varsity helm, the Titans have bought into Brown’s philosophy of “being responsible,” improving to 3-0 heading into this weekend’s slate of games.
The team’s ideology stems from Brown’s 12 years of coaching in the NFL, and a coaching staff that shares a similar background. Brown coached for the Commanders, Bills, 49ers and Panthers before finishing his NFL career as an offensive coordinator with the Cardinals. Arcadia offensive coordinator Phil Bates and defensive coordinator O’Brien Schofield played for the Seahawks, and that only begins to scratch the surface of the former NFL talent in the Titans’ coaching ranks.
With all this experience, Brown runs his team similarly to the way he did in the NFL. The only difference is Brown’s mission is to teach his team more about life than football.
“We coach at a high pace. We have big expectations, but at the same time, we know that we are in a teaching environment,” Brown said. “So if we just break it down, teach these young men, encourage them on the things that we teach them, and then just remind them again, and then go have fun. So that’s basically how we’re doing it.”
Brown stepped in as head coach in June of 2021, when Arcadia and Vance Miller parted ways after the COVID-19-impacted 2020 season, when the team went 1-7. Brown improved the school’s record to 5-5 in his first season. Now, the Titans are undefeated and looking to continue their best start under Brown Friday night against Camelback High School.
Still, as much as winning remains a priority, Brown is more focused on promoting education. The coach keeps up with his players’ grades and tries to make sure his team makes the right choices on and off the football field.
“He really stays on us. He cares about our grades. He cares about us as people. He always makes sure we do the right things in life and he really cares about us,” said Titans offensive lineman Carter Strauss.
The Titans wrap up their practice with the routine chant, followed by the chant of family. By creating a family within his team, Brown has taught his players about the importance of having chemistry as a team and working together for a common goal.
“I learned just how to be a good student and how to work well with others,” said Titans offensive tackle Logan Nardi. “I mean, that’s only something you can learn in football really, is how to work with a team.”
By coaching at Arcadia, Brown is returning a favor to the football program that gave his son a chance to find his way in life on the field. Brown sees coaching as an opportunity to serve his players and give them an example to follow. Bettering himself is a byproduct of long days spent preparing his team for the next game.
“It’s some intrinsic reasons why I do this,” Brown said. “Once I got over here, I knew what the school had (done) for my son (in) school and community football, the teachers, my son was in a tough spot. And literally, it changed his life once he got over here.
“That’s the one thing I do not want to do, I do not want to fail these young men. And then if I’m motivated by that, it makes me become a better man, a better person, a better husband, and a better football player.”
Before practice ends and the chants start, Brown shares a laugh with his offensive lineman about eating too many honey bun snacks after practice. Brown’s nature causes his players to light up, and they know they’re learning from one of the best, a man who has their best interests at heart.
After all, the Arcadia football team is one big family.
“He’s taught me just to care about others and care about your teammates,” Strauss said. “If somebody falls down, bring them back up. And really just keep working. Keep pushing through the hard things.”