Life has come full circle for Melik Brown, who attended Eastside High School in Camden, New Jersey, and is now the school's head football coach. For Brown, the journey from high school graduation to now has been filled with a lot of football.
"Football has always been near and dear to my heart," Brown said. "It has created so many amazing opportunities for me in life."
Brown played defensive back and center at Woodrow Wilson, leading the program to its first-ever sectional state championship in 2002.
After his time at Eastside, then Woodrow Wilson High School, the Camden native attended the University of North Carolina to continue his football career. Brown was a four-year starter at outside linebacker and defensive end for the Tar Heels.
After graduating from North Carolina in 2005, Brown then spent just under a decade in the Canadian Football League and Arena Football League, most notably with the Philadelphia Soul from 2011-13.
During his time with the Soul, Brown got into coaching at Eastside. After one season with his alma mater, he joined the coaching staff at Camden High School. Brown joined his former high school coaches, who were now at Camden, as the defensive coordinator.
"I wanted to start coaching and giving back to my community," Brown said.
From 2012-17, Brown helped coach three NFL products – Sean Chandler (Panthers), Brad Hawkins (Free agent), and Cesar Ruiz (Saints).
Brown left Camden High School to start Beast Up Academy, a training program for offensive and defensive linemen. The first player that Brown trained was offensive lineman and Camden native Jaryd Jones-Smith, who currently plays for the Washington Commanders.
"To see them living out their dreams means the world to me," Brown said. "I saw them watching and admiring NFL players, and now they are in that position where kids look up to them and want to be just like them."
In 2018, Brown was hired by his brother, Preston, who was the head coach at Eastside, with one goal in mind - Win a championship.
The brothers did just that in 2018 and again in 2019 before Preston, a former standout wide receiver at Tulane University, left to become the Director of Player Personnel at Temple University.
Throughout his time as a coach, Brown was offered the head coaching job at his alma mater on numerous occasions. It was on the fourth call in 2022 that he finally accepted.
"The kids here have been amazing," Brown said. "They have me loving everything about being a head coach. I love spearheading their development, taking part in their day-to-day lives, and impacting them on and off the field."
Brown's Eastside Tigers team finished the season 5-3 and will play host to Highland in the NJSIAA Tournament, Quarterfinal Round, South Jersey, Group 3 on Saturday.
Being a leader and educator runs in Brown's blood.
Brown has been in education since 2007, something he wanted to do for a long time. He has held roles such as assistant principal and assistant head of school.
Brown is the Dean of Climate and Culture at Eastside.
"My job is to help shape and mold our young people," Brown said. "I am very passionate about this school and about them receiving their education."
From having attended an honors college to perusing a career in education, academics have always been at the forefront for Brown.
Brown ensures that his players are all academically eligible to play and are set up for future success, whether that is going to college for football, for academics, or entering the workforce.
"Academics has to be the number one priority," Brown said. "My time at UNC instilled in me that education is extremely important, and it will open up so many doors for my students and players."
Whether it is on the field or in the classroom, Brown has a motto that he, his players, and his students live by.
"No excuses, only results."
"I want to see them put in work every single day," Brown said. "I do not have time for excuses because excuses do not get us anywhere, but results do. It shows me where they are, so I can meet them where they are to take them to where they want to be."
Brown's leadership as a coach and educator earned him a nomination for High School Coach of the Decade at the first Coach's Formal. This past winter, he finished as the runner-up.
"To get that nomination, it meant everything to me," Brown said. "It opened my eyes to the impact I am having on my players and students."
Brown's decade-long commitment to high school football and education makes him the Eagles Coach of the Week! The school will receive a $2,000 grant and Brown will be entered as a candidate for the Eagles High School Coach of the Year. – Written by Owen Boyle