When Cameron Brown (CWR ’20), outside linebackers coach for Case Western Reserve University’s football team, texted the coaches’ group chat last spring to let them know he’d accepted another position in California, most assumed he was headed to an NCAA Division II university.
Instead, Brown was on his way to the NFL as a defensive quality control coach for the San Francisco 49ers. And in his first season on the coaching staff, he’s now headed to the Super Bowl on Sunday as his team takes on the Kansas City Chiefs.
A standout defensive end during his undergraduate years at Case Western Reserve (2016–19), Brown holds the university record for career sacks, with 34.5, and single-season sacks, with 15. He was also named to the 2018 AFCA Division III Coaches’-All-America Second team and was the first player in the history of the Presidents’ Athletic Conference to be named Defensive Player of the Year twice. Brown is one of only four players in CWRU history to earn All-PAC honors four times during his time at the university.
Before he earned his place in the NFL—or even the record books at CWRU—Brown grew up in the world of professional sports as the son of former Cleveland Cavaliers head coach Mike Brown (now working not far from his son, as head coach of the Sacramento Kings). Despite spending formative years in the glow of the NBA, people are quick to notice Brown’s shyness and introversion.
His dialed-back personality “wasn’t what we expected from the son of an NBA coach,” Case Western Reserve Head Coach Greg Debeljak said, “but after we got to know his mom and dad, it was exactly what we expected.
“Being raised around people like LeBron James, you’d figure he’d be a little different, but he was just such a well-rounded and grounded kid,” Debeljak continued. “He was really focused, very disciplined. His work ethic was off the charts.”
After graduation, Brown played and coached for the Austrian Football League’s Cineplexx Blue Devils. He hoped to continue in professional football in Japan, but the “pandemic sort of took that away from him,” Debeljak explained.
That’s when Brown returned to his alma mater as a staff member, starting as an assistant defensive line coach in the 2021 season.
As an introvert with an outsized legacy at the helm, Brown maintained the same reserved, focused presence he had as a player and let his actions speak. He distinguished himself as a “lead by example guy” with a technique-focused, confidence-building approach, according to Michael Amadio (CWR ‘22), one of his former teammates who’s now an assistant coach for the Spartans and a Case Western Reserve law student.
Brown made the move to coaching outside linebackers in the 2022 season because “he’d never done it before,” Amadio explained. “He really wanted to challenge himself and dive in, and it made him a better coach—and that’s why I think he’s going to be successful with the 49ers.”
Brown’s humility, work ethic and drive to help others achieve stayed with Case Western Reserve players and coaches alike.
Brown was one of the leaders behind the Spartans’ defensive improvements between the 2021 and 2022 seasons.
“He bridged the gap a little bit between us and the coaching staff because he could relate to the coaches, but he had also been a player, so he understood our point of view as well,” said Kaden Tong, a Case Western Reserve senior defensive end who Brown coached. “There were things that he would notice that not everyone else would, and we’d be able to get those fixed. Also, just having someone like that around—someone with the legacy that he had—it was really motivating.”
Brown continues to inspire Case Western Reserve players to push limits. “I’m close to beating a lot of his records, but he and I still joke about it,” Tong said. “It was really motivating to have him there and have him actually helping me do that. Because as much as he said, ‘Oh, you’re not going to do that,’ I can tell he wanted me to achieve it just as bad as I did.”
Brown’s former teammates, players and coaches are glad to see him succeed—and potentially bring home a Super Bowl ring.
“He’s just one of the best guys. I’m so happy for him, and I know everybody is,” Amadio said. “It really couldn’t have happened to a better guy.”