Steve Brewer follows his faith

May. 19, 2014 @ 07:26 PM

You probably recognize him as the most high-profile coach at Sevier County High School.

But to those who know him — or have just spent a few minutes with him — Steve Brewer has always been about more than football. 

"He's a strong, strong Christian," said friend and South-Doyle football coach Clark Duncan. "He lives by example. You’re going to know his faith as soon as you're around him for five minutes. You know he’s going to do it right. Faith, family and job, no question that faith is his No. 1 priority."

Brewer announced on Sunday he was following that faith and leaving the Sevier County football team after 22 seasons. The former Smoky Bear head coach will become associate pastor of discipleship at First Baptist Church in Sevierville.

“As a Christian, I always want to do what the Lord’s leading me to do,” Brewer said. “This opportunity came up last fall. I prayed about it and felt this is the direction I should go.”

The 57-year-old said he's going from one great position to another. He came to Sevierville in 1992 after spending 11 years leading his alma mater, Fulton High School. A year after going 3-7, the Bears went 7-4 and won the first district title in school history. Brewer led his team to at least a .500 record in 20 of the next 21 regular seasons, including a 1999 state championship in class 5A, then Tennessee's highest classification.

Brewer is 167-86 in Sevierville, winning more than 66 percent of the games he’s coached. That includes a 50-10 mark over the last five years, a record that led Donovan Stewart of Examiner.com to declare Sevier County the state's third-best team in class 6A over that time period.

Brewer transformed Sevier County football over the course of three decades, taking the team to heights never imagined. Northview Academy coach Todd Loveday, who was Brewer's first quarterback in 1992, said he remembers about 100 people showing up to the final game of a 3-7 season the year before the former Austin Peay quarterback took over.

"He was the perfect hire at the perfect time," Loveday said."He got hired and his instant credibility with the players got the ship back on sail. He just had a confidence abut him.

"Sure enough, we win the district. I think we ended the season with 29 players. but those 29 believed in what he was selling. It was definitely a proud moment in my life."

When word of Brewer's resignation spread after the coach's new job was approved by the church congregation on Sunday, the same type of stories came pouring in from across East Tennessee. Maryville coach George Quarles said "everything you think about Steve Brewer is just class." Graham Clark, who became head coach at Dobyns-Bennett in Kingsport the year after Brewer was hired in Sevierville, said his friend and rival would "go down as one of the great ones."

Brewer's son Jonathan called Sunday one of the saddest and proudest days of his life. An assistant coach under his father for the last eight years, the younger Brewer said he knew his dad would no longer lead the Bears one day.

"I think the lesson we can all take from his example is he's doing what he feels led to do," Jonathan Brewer said. "He's following his heart. He's following God's calling for his life. He doesn't want to leave this job. This is a great job. But he's being obedient, which is hard for a lot of people to do. He makes it look easy, but it's not easy."

A stranger when he moved to Sevierville 22 years ago, the elder Brewer has been active at the First Baptist Church, serving as a deacon, Sunday School teacher and on committees to find a new pastor and define the church's core values and mission statement. He said the church has been a "great blessing" to both him and his family and his new job, where he will oversee various education programs, is an opportunity to serve at that church.

"Steve has done a very good job at what he was called to Sevier County to do," said Dan Spencer, the church's senior pastor. "... He found that balance of being in a public school where everyone’s aware of the limitations — you can't just stand on your desk and preach — and found a good balance to be who he is, a man of faith, in that environment."

Brewer said Sunday that he sees faith as the most important thing. It led him to Sevier County and is now driving him into a new career.

“When I came up here as head coach, it was a move based on faith,” Brewer said. “I really didn't know anybody. I didn't know how it was going to work out. The Lord has taken care of us. It’s a wonderful community. I can’t begin to say how good they’ve been to me, my program and my family.”