By LARRY VAUGHT
Neal Brown has not been surprised by the way Kentucky offensive line coach John Schlarman has handled undergoing chemotherapy treatments after being diagnosed with cancer earlier this summer and still managed to continue coaching.
Brown, the head coach at Troy and former offensive coordinator Kentucky, has known Schlarman for about 20 years. During that time, Brown says Schlarman has always been a “tough guy” no matter what he was doing.
“He was an undersized offensive lineman in the Southeastern Conference and he ended up being first team all-conference,” said Brown, a former UK player. “He takes the head coaching job at Campbell County (High School) and gets them to play physical and tough and takes that program to the best it had been in years. Same thing when he went to Newport.
“Then he comes to Troy (as offensive line coach) and the offense has the best production it has had until our recent success and a lot of that had to do with John’s offensive line.
“But the thing that is even more amazing to me is his attitude. He has unbelievable positivity. I am not surprised at all that he’s continuing to coach. It’s impressive he’s doing that, but not surprising he’s coaching or working at a high level. That’s just John.”
Allison Tamme greeted and talked to Schlarman when he played in the Swings for Soldiers, a charity golf scramble Tamme and her husband, Jacob, put on each July to raise money to build homes for wounded veterans. Looking back, he obviously had been diagnosed with cancer then and likely had undergone his first chemotherapy treatment.
“But he was so positive and thanked us for inviting him again,” Allison Tamme, who was diagnosed with thyroid cancer five years ago, said. “You couldn’t tell anything was wrong. He interacted with everybody, played golf, had a great time and everybody always laughs and smiles when you are around him because of his enthusiasm and outlook on life.”
Brown and Schlarman worked together three years at Troy before Brown left for Texas Tech. When Brown came to UK to work for Mark Stoops, he hired Schlarman as his line coach and they worked two more years together.
“He’s one of the best people I have ever been around. He’s one of my best friends,” Brown said. “I’m not surprised by the toughness he’s shown. He’s just been that way his whole life. But his attitude … even now he’s staying so positive. His outlook and positive energy even now are the most impressive things to me. He’s just an inspiration.”
Brown admits he’s an outsider looking at the situation but he praises the way Stoops has handled the situation and hopes the adversity Kentucky is going through with Schlarman, defensive lineman Josh Paschal (skin cancer) and offensive lineman Landon Young (season-ending knee injury) will make the team come together even more
“Sometimes early adversity can set a team up for huge success and hopefully this adversity is an inspiration to the whole team,” Brown said. “Mark is really doing a great job handling this and I know John appreciates that he is still getting to work. He needs that routine to keep his mind off his illness all the time.
“We still talk a lot and he’s just a special guy. He’s always been the most mentally tough person I have known. He is going to beat this and it will be a great story. I have no doubt about any of that.”