MIDVALE — As the community he inspired rallied to support his family, Hillcrest football coach Cazzie Brown’s six-day battle with a viral infection ended in heartbreak.
With his wife and three children by his side, Brown died Sunday night, leaving a high school community reeling.
“The best thing we can do is just support him from our community,” Hillcrest team captain and senior wide receiver Ezra Moleni told the Deseret News after visiting coach Brown at University Hospital on Saturday afternoon. “We will just try to help support his family in this hard time.”
While many members of the team participated in a fast and prayer effort, others prayed for him and his wife, Heather, at Our Lady of Lourdes Mass Sunday morning. A GoFundMe campaign raised more than $26,000 in about 12 hours, and was still open as a way to help the Browns with medical and funeral expenses.
Within minutes of his death, his Facebook page was filled with tributes, messages and stories of how Brown had lifted, inspired or enhanced the lives of those he knew and loved him.
Jeremy Chatterton, who coached with Brown at Judge and Highland, was one of those who posted condolences on Brown's Facebook page:
"A great man has passed away tonight. I have known Cazzie for over 14 years, 11 of those coaching side by side. I don't know anyone that has touched more lives or had as big of an impact on so many young people as Coach Brown. One if his great sayings was "You can ignite many candles without diminishing your own flame". Coach Brown you have ignited many candles and your flame will continue to burn for a long time. I love you, and I will miss you." His players said he motivated them with love and taught them that football was more than stats, scores or awards.
“Coach Brown, he brought something different than many of the other coaches I’ve had in the past,” Moleni said Saturday. “He was trying to bring a culture of family. He made Hillcrest something better than it was before. He believed in us. He believed in me. He really cared about us — and not just as players. He cared about us as young men.”
Former colleagues said Brown was one of the most effective motivators, because of his positive personality and how much he relished working with young people.
“The biggest thing I think of when I think of Caz,” said Highland head coach Brody Benson, who coached with Brown for three years, “he loves, he really loves what he’s doing. He loves being a coach. He finds extreme value in that.”
Hillcrest and Highland are scheduled to play Friday, although football was the last thing on Benson’s mind Saturday night. He said the prep football community will rally around Brown’s family because he was so beloved by players, parents and colleagues.
“I’m a better person because of Caz Brown,” Benson said. “Those kids over at Hillcrest were lucky to have Caz. We all were.”