Tommy Brasher, a fierce linebacker for El Dorado High School in the late 1950s, was good enough to earn a scholarship to the University of Arkansas.
A member of the Razorbacks lyricist for three years with Frank Broyles from 1961 to 1963, Brasher began coaching after graduating from college.
Brasher understandably thought he would be coaching linebackers when he arrived in Fayetteville as a graduate assistant in 1970.
Broyles had other ideas.
“He called me one day and said, ‘I know you’ve been coaching linebackers, but I can never find a defensive line coach,’” Brasher said. “’I want you to be that’”.
And that was it.
“The rest is history,” said LaNelle Brasher, Tommy’s wife of 59 years.
Brasher’s coaching career, primarily in the NFL and devoted almost entirely to coaching the defensive line, was so successful that Brasher will be inducted into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame Friday night at the Arkansas Sports Center. Statehouse Conventions in Little Rock.
Brasher’s dedication was evident to LaNelle.
“He worked all day and late into the night,” his wife said.
Brasher, now 81, worked his way through the college ranks, going to Virginia Tech, Northeastern Louisiana (now Louisiana-Monroe) and SMU before enrolling with the New England Patriots under former Mustangs coach Ron Meyer. .
Brasher moved to Philadelphia for one season in 1985, then coached in Atlanta (1986-89), Tampa Bay (1990), and Seattle (1992-98) before returning to Philadelphia in 1999 with Andy Reid.
It was in Philadelphia that Brasher trained the late Reggie White, a Pro Football Hall of Famer who recorded 198 sacks in his 15-year career.
Brasher said it was an honor to coach men like White and Cortez Kennedy, who grew up in Arkansas and spent their entire playing careers in Seattle.
“He had the instincts,” Brasher said of White.
While in Seattle, Brasher coached Kennedy, who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2012, five years before his untimely death in 2017 at the age of 48.
“He had the instinct,” Brasher said of Kennedy.
One contribution Brasher made to his linemen, he said, was studying video and developing techniques to help his players succeed.
“It was a throw-down-the-quarterback philosophy,” Brasher said. “I’ve studied every sack in the NFL, so I’ve learned a lot about the sack business, which is something a defensive line coach needs to know.”
Brasher spent the last 20 years of his career working for Reid in Philadelphia and then Kansas City, where he remained involved as a consultant until the Chiefs won Super Bowl LIV in February 2020.
Childhood friend Herbert Ray Martin said that Brasher was the leader of the El Dorado crews in the late 1950s.
“He was like a coach on the field,” Martin said. “He always wanted to be a coach. If you got out of line, he was going to correct you.”
Martin said Brasher’s impact still resonates 50 years after he was the head coach at Hot Springs High School in the late 1960s.
“We have about 15 of them coming to the banquet,” Martin said of Brasher’s former Hot Springs players. “That tells you a lot about his influence on them.”
Brasher did such a good job at Hot Springs that Broyles took notice and brought him to Fayetteville to serve as a graduate assistant.
“Tommy loved him very much,” LaNelle Brasher said of Broyles, “and Coach Broyles loved Tommy.”
Like many people.
TOMMY BRASHER AT A GLANCE
HIGH SCHOOL/CITY OF ORIGIN The Golden
CURRENT RESIDENCE Seattle
COLLEGE University of Arkansas
CHILDREN Christy Schiers, Melody Zakaluk
GRANDCHILDREN Quintin (14), Zane (12), Brennen (20) and Nicholas (22)
GAME RACE all-state running back/linebacker at El Dorado High School; three-year clerk at linebacker position from the University of Arkansas (1961-63)
HIGH SCHOOL COACHING CAREER El Dorado (defensive assistant, 1965); Ball, Texas (defensive assistant, 1966); Hot Springs (head coach, 1967-69)
COLLEGE COACHING CAREER University of Arkansas (graduate assistant, 1970); Virginia Tech (defensive line/linebackers, 1971-73); Northeast Louisiana (assistant, 1974); Northeast Louisiana (assistant, 1976); SMU (defensive line coach, 1977-1981)
WORLD FOOTBALL LEAGUE Shreveport Steamers (defensive coordinator, 1975)
NFL New England Patriots (1982-84); Philadelphia Eagles (defensive line coach, 1985); Atlanta Falcons (defensive line coach, 1986-89); Tampa Bay Buccaneers (defensive line coach, 1990); Seattle Seahawks (defensive line coach, 1992-97); Seattle Seahawks (linebackers coach, 1998); Philadelphia Eagles (defensive line coach, 1999-2005); Philadelphia Eagles (defensive line coach, 2012); Kansas City Chiefs (defensive line coach, 2013-15); Kansas City Chiefs (special projects, 2016-17)