Hawaii football: Chris Brown enjoys the show

Former Rainbow Warrior defensive end/linebacker Chris Brown appeared at his old stomping grounds on Tuesday. / Photo by Brian McInnis

Blood and sweat.

When Craig Stutzmann thinks about his playing days alongside Chris Brown, those substances come to mind. Vividly, too, as Brown, the former Rainbow Warrior standout linebacker (1999 to 2002), is back in town.

The 39-year-old still resembles wrought iron in human form.

“He’s tough as you-know-what,” said Stutzmann, one of a handful of members of the UH coaching staff (including head coach Nick Rolovich) who suited up with Brown. “Toughest guy that I know, mentally, physically. I still remember after football games, going into the locker room and he’s got his tape that’s just falling off him, he looks like he’s just come from the beach because he’s got full sweat, just covered in it. I just remember blood running down his arms and it just looked like he went through a real battle. And that’s the way he played. He played like he was going into battle every single game.”

A little hand-to-hand combat at the Rainbow Warriors’ spring practice Tuesday got some of the old juices flowing.

“Well, it’s always good to come back home and see this,” Brown said. “Especially seeing guys like Rolo, and Brian (offensive coordinator Smith), and the coaches that I’ve actually played with. Seeing Isaac Sapoaga out here is great. But I’m impressed with the energy right now. That makes me happy. Because when we played, I mean, there were fights every day because it was so competitive. So I’m watching (the) inside run today and I see a little scuffle. I get all I excited. I tell Isaac, ‘man, that’s it! Right there man, that’s what we miss.’ But it’s good. I love the energy right now.”

Brown’s weight room prowess is the stuff of Warrior lore. That tenacity helped him get a stint with the Baltimore Ravens before he realized his calling as a coach and motivator.

The Kahaluu native coached linebackers and did some defensive coordinating between 2006 and 2012 at Saint Louis, then oversaw the same at his alma mater, Damien, for two seasons, before latching on with national powerhouse Bishop Gormon (Nev.). The Gaels’ fifth-year linebackers and strength coach watched UH’s Cooke Field practice with a seasoned eye — he was especially mindful of three of his former charges, linebacker Kana‘i Picanco (Damien) and safeties Ikem Okeke and Kalen Hicks (Bishop Gorman).

The Bishop Gorman linebacking corps is known as the “Lion’s Den.”

“That’s my guy,” Okeke said after Tuesday’s practice. “I was a linebacker first. He was my linebacker coach for my senior year. Helped me get over here to Hawaii. … That’s my guy for life, Warrior pride for life, Lion’s Den, always.”

Brown said he’s noticed Okeke’s leadership abilities emerge out of a past of discipline problems, filling the coach with pride. And the 6-foot-3 Hicks, he said, has some NFL potential.

“It’s great to see them. It’s their senior year coming up,” Brown said. “I’m real excited to watch those two boys light it up. They’ve come a long way and it’s just exciting to watch them in Division I.” As for Picanco, he noted, “Great player, tough kid. He’s from the same area, Kahaluu, that I’m from. He actually grew up two houses down from me.”

Gorman, recognized by various publications as the national champion in 2014, 2015, and 2016, is 54-5 since 2015 under head coach Kenny Sanchez. Brown called the culture at the Las Vegas school “real special,” marveling at the institution’s year-round drive to become national champions.

Iron sharpens iron. That fits him tighter than his T-shirt.

Okeke described Brown’s coaching style as: “Just energy. All a bunch of just built-up energy just waiting to burst out. He just wants you to be the best, to get the best out of yourself. Knowing what it takes to get to that level, he pushes me and everyone he has now at Bishop Gorman to be their best and work so they can get to that level where they have that much success.”

The “Lion’s Den” and the rest of the Gaels are slated for an Aug. 30 appearance against Saint Louis at Aloha Stadium.

Brown, who pays close attention to happenings with UH football as well as the local preps scene, can’t wait.

“Saint Louis is a great team,” Brown said. “I’ve been asking (Sanchez) to come out and get this game for a while. He finally took it, and it’s going to be a great game. Saint Louis’ offense is an offense that I’m used to watching, growing up. And their defense is lights-out, so it’s going to be a big challenge for us. I know our boys are really pumped up and excited to come out here. Not just because it’s Hawaii, but because they’re about to play the Crusaders, who’s a legendary team in itself. It’s going to be a great experience for us.”

Chris Brown watched some of his old UH teammates coach at Rainbow Warriors spring practice. / Photo by Brian McInnis


  1. Haka April 16, 2019 9:51 pm

    CB is a BEAST!!!
    A true Warrior.

  2. H-Man April 16, 2019 10:45 pm

    Has it been that long since Chris last played at UH? Agree, he was the beast. Loved watching him play.

  3. iGrokSpock April 17, 2019 9:00 am

    He looks like he can still be playing the game!

  4. Joan April 17, 2019 9:21 am

    I recently met Coach Brown @ Central Christian Church in Las Vegas, NV.
    My grandson is on his Gorman team right
    now. Besides Chris being a “beast 🤣” he is also a GENTLEMAN, a gentle giant and a devout Jesus Follower. I am thankful that he is such a wonderful example for my grandson and ALL the Gorman football team and Gorman Community at large. Gorman is lucky to have him. Mahalo

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