When Thomas Brown takes the field on Thanksgiving morning he will build on the legacy of a football family drenched in history.
A sophomore lineman, Brown is the latest from a storied football family who have not only starred for Chelmsford but are entrenched in the Chelmsford-Billerica Thanksgiving rivalry that has existed since 1927.
He will have a chance on Thursday to cement himself in program lore as an integral member of a Chelmsford team itching to grab the Merrimack Valley Conference Small crown for the first time in 11 years.
“I am really excited to be part of this thing,” Thomas said. “I am proud that I can be a part of it all now.”
Thomas emerged quickly as a freshman as it was clear his strength, footwork, and physicality would make him an elite lineman. He was accepted by his senior teammates but his real burst on the scene came during his freshman winter when he won wrestling championships in the Div. 1 North Sectional, Div. 1 State, and All-State finals.
“Football is the main reason I wrestle,” Thomas said. “It helps with my hands, footwork, and conditioning. Hand-fighting in wrestling is pretty much the same thing as offensive line.”
It is easy to see how Thomas became enamored with the game of football. Everywhere Thomas turns is a family member who has been at the center of one of Massachusetts’ most classic rivalries. Bob Brown Sr., Thomas’ grandfather, was a star captain for Billerica and led the Indians to a Thanksgiving Day win over Chelmsford in 1958.
Thomas’ father, Bob Brown Jr. was one of the premier lineman to come through Massachusetts in the last half-century. In the late 1970s he starred for Chelmsford and was part of the 1978 Lions team that made the Super Bowl. He also helped lead the Lions to a Thanksgiving win over Billerica his senior year. His college career at Pittsburgh was filled with incredible opportunities. He blocked for one of the most storied quarterbacks in football history in Dan Marino while playing in the Sugar, Cotton, and Fiesta Bowls.
“It’s so fun to relive those days,” Brown Jr. said. “It was such a great time in my life.”
Nowadays Brown Jr. patrols the sidelines as an assistant coach on George Peterson’s staff at Chelmsford. It’s a source of energy and pride as he looks to recreate those powerful high school moments he sees Thomas enjoying.
“Despite all those great college moments, I don’t think I ever had the same experience as a high school football game, especially the Chelmsford-Billerica rivalry,” Brown Jr. said. “It is more of a job in college. This is just all about football and you will never get that experience again.”
Thomas for his part is quick to point out how his dad is never shy to share the occasional tip whether it be in a car ride home or in a family-run film session. At six-foot-four, 260 pounds, he knows he largely has a physical advantage over each of his opponents. It’s all about hammering home the technique.
“Every Saturday after a Friday night game we sit down on a couch and watch film for two hours,” Thomas said smiling. “He yells at me with technique tips. It’s awesome having a dad who knows all the aspects and knows what he is talking about.”
Thomas’ college attention has already skyrocketed as he has received interest from a number of Power 5 schools including his father’s alma mater. All that is on Thomas’ mind, however, is how to attain bragging rights come Thanksgiving dinner. Thomas’ father and uncle never lost to Billerica. His older brother, Bob Brown III, was a member of the last Chelmsford team to beat Billerica for the league title in 2005. His other brother, Willy Brown, downed Billerica in 2007 en route to a Super Bowl.
“He has wanted to one up them at the Thanksgiving table,” Brown Jr. said. “Neither of them have their name on the wall for wrestling like Thomas.”
Now he is hoping to match them on the football field.
“They have won more Billerica games so there is no real argument for me right now,” Thomas said. “Hopefully that changes.”