Patriots assistant running backs and kick returners coach Troy Brown and defensive line coach Demarcus Covington will take part as coaches in the 2021 East-West Shrine Bowl, as the usual showcase game for college seniors has been transformed into a virtual learning program in the wake of COVID-19.
At the conclusion of the NFL regular season, teams were asked to nominate active assistant coaches to take part and the Patriots' duo was one of ten teams chosen. The players and coaches will take part in virtual training and drills, as the program looks to enhance the development of both those already in the league as coaches and those trying to break through as rookies next season.
Brown is coming off his first season as a full-time assistant after returning to the team in 2019 under the NFL Minority Coaching Fellowship. In 2020, Brown helped guide Gunner Olszewski to an All-Pro nod as a punt returner.
"He's back there with me every step of the way, in practice and even in pregame," said Olszewski of Brown this past season. "Every punt I catch, Troy's standing right behind me, saying all the things he's been saying since training camp 'Get under the ball, look it all the way in, tuck it away.' All these things. So when I go back there in a game, my eyes are on Troy. He kind of gives me a call, and then when I line up, I can still kind of hear his voice when that ball gets punted in the air: 'get under it, look it all the way in.' It's the small things that really make those big returns happen. You know, you can't start until you catch it. So he's been a huge help, and having somebody like that that I can just go talk to is obviously huge."
Covington slid down to coach the defensive line this past season after spending 2019 coaching the outside linebackers with two previous years as a coaching assistant with the Patriots under his belt as well. He's following a similar path of many Bill Belichick assistants who coach multiple positions and learn the game from different levels.
"You have to know from day one that this is a selfless defensive line unit," said Covington of the Patriots' style of defense. "You have to know that you're going to take on the dirty work, put your hand in the ground every play, being able to take on double teams, defeat blockers, play with your hands, play at the line of scrimmage and you might not make the tackle, but you're gonna be able to take on two for someone else to make the tackle and that's unselfish."
Though there won't be a Shrine Bowl game this year, it's still a good opportunity for the players and coaches to further their development, and they'll also develop off the field, participating in various virtual experiences with Shriners Hospitals for Children patients.