It was February of 2009, and California's top linebacker prospect was on cloud nine.

"It was a wonderful day," said Bulldogs Linebacker Travis Brown. "It was awesome him being right behind me and my mom. It was just an all-around special time."

Travis Brown signed with Fresno State to play for the coach who taught him everything he knew about football, and about life.

"He just said he was excited to coach me, and he's been looking forward to it for so long," said Brown, "and I kind of took that to heart."

But Dan Brown would never coach the fifth of six children. He officially resigned as Defensive Coordinator just after Travis' signing day, and succumbed to his battle with brain cancer, one month later.

"He said his dream was always to coach me and falling short of that always hits my heart pretty hard," Brown admitted, "I always wanted to play for him."

The outpouring of support after Coach Brown's death helped Travis find strength during a rough time.

"[It was] almost inspiring to me to see the community and the players, how they cherished him and his times here," Brown said.

Fast-forward to the present and Browns still marvels at the way his father handled his fight with cancer.

"He never complained one time," Brown said with admiration. "He had two brain surgeries and regular people would be out for years. You see him a week after the brain surgery out here at practice in 110 degree weather coaching the dogs."

Dan Brown may be gone, but he is far from forgotten.

"Coach Brown did a tremendous job," said Bulldogs Head Coach Tim DeRuyter, who coached against Brown with Air Force and Nevada. "He was very highly respected in this league and nationally. His guys flew to the ball. They played defense the way it was supposed to be played."

And every time Travis Brown walks down the ramp at Bulldog Stadium, he knows his father will be with him.

"Anytime I put on pads or go out there - just going out to this field - I always think about this being where he started and where he made his legacy well known," said Brown. "So I always think about it every time I put on pads."

"A lot of times those kids grow up seeing their dad coach and they want to emulate that," said Coach DeRuyter. "He tends to be a coach on the field - a very smart football player."

Like father, like son, keeping the Brown family legacy at Fresno State as strong as ever.

(Copyright ©2014 KFSN-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

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fresno state bulldogs, fresno state football, sports, david bataller
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