Brown looking forward to return to football at Union College


John Henson

Harlan County High School senior Matt Brown signed with Union College on Thursday where he will continue his football career. Pictured with Brown at his signing ceremony are, front row, from left: Jacob Brown, Matt Brown, Shonda Brown and Jayce Brown; back row; HCHS athletic director Eugene Farmer, HCHS coach Eddie Creech and HCHS assistant coach Nick Bray.

By John Henson, Managing Editor

Known for his speed and big-play ability going to back to his days as a middle school standout with the New Harlan football program, Matt Brown’s playing career appeared to come to an end on Sept. 18 when he suffered a season-ending knee injury against Wayne County in only the second game of his senior season at Harlan County High School.
Brown soon discovered he missed football even more than he imagined as he went through physical therapy workouts and watched his teammates from the sideline.
“Missing my senior year made me want to continue playing,” Brown said. “Some people want to give up and lay down, but I was asking during the first day of physical therapy when I can play football again. When I get back to 100 percent there won’t be any stopping me.”
Brown, a 5-foot-8, 160-pound receiver, had surgery in late October and began physical therapy in November. Brown is back to almost “80 percent” at this point and hopes to back to 100 percent by April or May. He plans to be ready for the start of summer workouts in July with the Union College football program.
Union College football coach John Luttrell, a former Harlan and Union standout who later coached at Cawood, Harlan County and Harlan, was at HCHS on Thursday to sign Brown as the newest member of the Union football program.
“Every game I watched, I was impressed with Matt’s agility and quickness,” Luttrell said. “He’s a typical slot receiver for us with jet sweeps and bubble screens. I have a kid right now out of Knoxville who is 5-7 and is playing a lot of football for us at slot. We use our quicker, more agile kids there, and Matt fits that role.”
“The one thing Matt has always brought to the table is quickness and speed. You want to get a kid like Brown in space because you feel he can win one-on-one matchups,” Harlan County coach Eddie Creech said. “He was also one of our best receivers over the past two years, He brings the ability to turn a bad play into a good play. I thought he was a pivotal part of our regional championship team as a freshman. He had huge plays against North Laurel and Perry Central when we won the district championship his sophomore season. I think he will bring that to Union. I think he can help them on special teams.”
Brown said he felt at home at Union and was excited to get back to playing.
“It’s not that far from home and I’ve known coach Luttrell a while and I feel he will treat me well,” Brown said. “It’s a really nice place and I want to continue football and it’s the best way I know how.”
Brown will see some familiar faces when he arrives in Barbourville. Union is playing eight games in a spring season in the Appalachian Division of the Mid South Conference and at least three former Bears are playing big roles. Billy Fields is starting at right guard on offense while Elijah Smallwood is a second-team left tackle. Christian Hall, a sophomore, is a second-team outside linebacker and also plays a big role on special teams.
“I’d take as many as I could from right here,” Luttrell said. “We have three guys there now from Harlan County who will play a lot of football Saturday, so that’s a good thing. I like kids from this area. I think it’s a good way to build the program
Creech is happy to see several of his former players moving to the next level and noted that Jacob Ward is playing defensive tackle at the University of Pikeville. Cole Kidwell recently completed his career at Pikeville and Scotty Bailey is now a member of the HCHS coaching staff after completing his playing career at the University of the Cumberlands.
“I don’t know if we’ve ever four active players from this school playing on the college level. We have three at Union and one at UPike who are actually playing,” Creech said. “I hope we can help these kids use the talents God has given them to play on the next level.”

Matt Brown, pictured in action earlier in his career, was Harlan County’s leader in receiving yardage as a junior. (Kim Henson)