Advertisement

For three WSU coaches, starting together at EWU provided the foundation they needed

Apr. 24—PULLMAN — Allen Brown can still see the interception in his mind like it happened yesterday.

He was in Cover 2, the call early in the second half of his Eastern Washington team's 2010 FCS title game matchup with Delaware, and under normal circumstances he would have positioned himself farther away from the action.

"But that week, we knew we were gonna be playing out of the three-step," Brown said, explaining that because Delaware's quarterback liked to unleash quick throws, he played closer to the line of scrimmage.

The next thing he knew, Brown came flying in to dive and snag the ball, which glanced off the hands of Delaware receiver Mark Schenaur. Brown leapt off the turf and ran to the sideline, ready to celebrate a play that helped the Eagles erase a three-score deficit for the first national title in program history.

When he arrived on the sideline, though, Brown ran into teammate Nick Edwards and special teams coordinator Jeff Schmedding. He might not have thought much of it at the time. He spent years around them, after all.

Now all three coach at Washington State: Brown as cornerbacks coach, Edwards as wide receivers coach and Schmedding as defensive coordinator, bringing the trio back together after years apart, a winding journey that saw all three disperse for jobs around the nation — only to reunite in the same part of the country where they got their starts.

"It's formulated my entire philosophy, teaching progression, the way I go about my everyday life," Brown said, "because I learned how to be a man there. I matured there. I learned from some really, really good coaches. And I've got brothers on that team, to this day, guys that'll be in my wedding."

Brown joined WSU coach Jake Dickert's staff in early March, following a one-year stint in a quality control role at Florida. Edwards joined the staff in January 2023, after working as an offensive assistant with the Atlanta Falcons. Schmedding joined at the same time, coming over from Auburn, where he worked as defensive coordinator and assistant head coach for two seasons.

That means all three overlapped at EWU for three seasons, from 2009-11, a stretch that included 27 wins and a national title. Schmedding also coached the safeties and nickels in that time, allowing him to work even closer with Brown, who totaled 181 tackles and two interceptions as an Eagle.

Brown and Schmedding also overlapped in 2018, Schmedding's last season at EWU, where Brown coached the cornerbacks from 2019-21.

As all three reconvene at WSU, ready to guide the Cougars into a transitional phase in school history as the school works with Oregon State to try to rebuild the Pac-12, they credit their time at EWU for giving them the foundations they needed to jump-start their careers.

"It was one of the places where you were allowed to be yourself," said Edwards, who was high school teammates with Brown in Tacoma. "But also the people that were there, they embraced the game of football, they embraced the growth of football. I don't know how that place and how this place attracts those types of people. I think it may be just a blue-collar mentality type deal. But it's really the same."

For Schmedding, who worked as EWU's defensive coordinator from 2015-18, it took him some time to see Brown and Edwards' coaching potential. Around the time of the 2010 season, when Edwards totaled more than 2,000 receiving yards and 29 touchdowns as a player, Schmedding was impressed with the two as players.

If there's one thing he's learned over a coaching career that has spanned some two decades, it's that he can sense which players would make good coaches one day.

"You look at the guys who hold people accountable, lead the group on and off the field," Schmedding said. "When you're talking about Nick being a captain, Allen Brown being a two-time captain. ... There's a bunch of guys over your career that you have a pretty good idea will go into coaching. I think those are two that it didn't shock me at all that they wanted to coach."

In high school, where Edwards and Allen played together at Foss in Tacoma, Allen almost never went out for football. He had a bone infection in his spine, which didn't allow him to play football. He stuck to the basketball court, where he and Edwards were also teammates.

Eventually, he got clearance from doctors to try his hand at football. That story starts on a smaller scale, though — at Cheney Stadium, the home of the Triple-A Tacoma Rainiers. That's where, to get his football fix, Brown and Edwards joined other classmates to play in the parking lot.

"We ended up making a couple bets," Brown said, "and next thing you know, I'm out there playing JV football for the fall. Did a couple games at JV, and then I got bumped up, obviously. The story's the story."

The story has led all three to Pullman, where they're working on leading the Cougs back to a bowl game, this time playing a schedule heavy on Mountain West opponents as part of a scheduling agreement.

They never imagined they would be here. That's part of the magic, it turns out, of starting in Cheney.

"I've built bonds, and I've come a long way since then," Brown said. "But still, I would say that a lot of things that I learned there are things that I carry to this day. It definitely holds a special place in my heart, and it's always fun when you win. It's definitely a big deal to me."