Coach Brown was born in Cookeville, Tennessee. During his teenage years, he attended Putnam County High School. Brown’s family had a long history with football. His grandfather, Eddie Watson, was a legendary athlete at Tennessee Tech and coach at Putnam County High School for more than three decades and later was Superintendent of Schools. His father, Melvin Brown, was also a coach and an administrator. Mack’s older brother and former Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame Inductee, Watson also caught the coaching bug, and is the current head football coach at Tennessee Tech. His younger brother Mel was also a very good high school QB.
Brown attended Vanderbilt University and later graduated from Florida State University in 1974, starting his coaching career as a student coach after a vicious hit in practice prematurely ended his playing career. He then received a graduate degree from the University of Southern Mississippi in 1976.
Brown’s first experience coaching came as a student head freshman coach at Florida State, a position he held in 1973 and 1974. From 1975 to 1977 he was the wide receivers coach at Southern Miss. This was followed by a one-year stint as wide receivers coach at Memphis State.
Mack Brown quickly shot up the coaching ranks and his offensive knowledge continually opened doors. Mack lived the nomadic life of a college football coach for years as he got one position after another. The Iowa State Cyclones gave Mack his first gig as an offensive coordinator which in turn led to the head coaching job at Appalachian State. After one season, Mack Brown moved back into the big ranks as offensive coordinator for the Oklahoma Sooners.
The Tulane Green Wave gave Mack Brown his first major NCAA head coaching job, and after the brilliant coach managed to turn around the suffering football team and landed the Tulane Green Wave in their first Bowl Game in many years. Mack had another big rebuilding task when he took over the University of North Carolina Tar Heels football team. From 1988-97, Mack changed the Tar Heels from a struggling team to a great football program spearheading a major renovation to Kenan Stadium that featured upgraded team facilities and an expansion to 60,000 seats.
Mack’s great coaching talents caught the eye of the Texas Longhorns in 1998. Where he moved to become the head coach where he stayed until the conclusion of the 2013 season. While there he led the Horns to a 158-48, including the 2005 BCS National Championship and an appearance in the 2009 national title game. Brown, who secured the 2005 Bear Bryant Coach of the Year and the 2008 Bobby Dodd National Coach of the Year, is one of a handful of coaches in the history of college football to lead two separate programs to a top five national finish.
While Brown led the Longhorns to new heights during his tenure on the sidelines, he and his wife Sally dedicated themselves to giving back. In Austin, the Browns continue to be active in community affairs. The Browns have been instrumental in the opening of The Mack and Sally Brown Rise School of Austin (an early childhood education program that integrates children who have disabilities with their typically developing peers) and serve on the school’s Board of Directors. The Brown’s also have a lead role in MJ&M. This is a joint fundraising effort of actor Matthew McConaughey, recording artist Jack Ingram, and Coach Brown. MJ&M benefits non-profit organizations that all reflect MJ&M’s goal to empower kids. Jack Ingram summed up the effect Mack has on those around him when he said “Mack Brown…what wall do you want me to run through for him?! Point it out, tell me where it is or tell me it’s an unbreakable wall- I’ll either run through it or die trying! ”
Mack and Sally have four children – Matt Jessee, Katherine Ryan, Barbara Wilson, and Chris Jessee – and six grandchildren.