AFL: Blaze owner Kim Brown does things her way
The reaction was a telltale sign of things to come, of a future Kim Brown would eventually reach and the principle that she wouldn't be pushed around. It was sixth grade and girls at her junior high school in Houston organized a powder puff football game.
Brown was one of the many out there calling plays, organizing routes and warming up her arm when an oversized offensive lineman on the junior high's football team came over, snatched the football and set off.
Kim Brown's childhood was pure football. Her dad was a coach. Her twin brothers were a quarterback-wide receiver tandem, and she was a team manager and an eventual high school cheerleader. She wouldn't be bullied, so she set out and railroaded the lineman, tackling him into a giant ant bed. He spent the night in the hospital after bites covered his head.
"I don't think he thought I could catch him," said the Utah Blaze owner, smacking her knee in recollection. "Football and competition â¦ is a huge thing."
The motor within Kim Brown doesn't stop. It never really has. She always knew she loved two things: marketing and football. And now, three decades after bursting onto the local radio scene as a crack-shot ads saleswoman, Brown is the majority owner of the Blaze, Utah's Arena Football League team.
She was the first salesperson in Utah to bill $1 million in ad revenue during her marketing days at FM100 in the late 1980s. Her persona grew as did her relentlessness to be the best, and that continues today with her marketing agency, Kim Brown & Associates, as well as her first season as majority shareholder of the Blaze.
"It's not misguided passion," said Utah coach Ron James. "She's very directive with what she's trying to do."
Case in point: During her days in radio marketing and advertising, when a deal needed to be closed, Brown's manager dubbed her with a fitting nickname.
"I was the fourth-and-goal," she said.
Brown has burst through the goal line much of her life. She never thought being a female owner of a professional franchise in America would be a reality. She set out to be the first female sports broadcaster in the Houston area when she saw nothing but males holding the microphone, commenting on various football games growing up.
Now she paces around the halls of EnergySolutions Arena, greeting passing employees in her strong Southeast Texan twang, inquiring about their day, a tall soda in her left hand. She sits in the Blaze locker room, equipment strung out from a recent practice and takes in the moment, staring at helmets and gloves in various lockers.
This is her team, but more importantly, she is quick to affirm that it is first and foremost Utah's team.
"This is a pretty testosterone kind of business," she said. "When we women are tough or when we have to do our job sometimes, it's interpreted differently. I've learned in my business that I can still be tougher, but can still use kindness."
Blaze receiver Aaron Lesue, a staple of consistency and league record-holder, said Brown's approach is working. The first time he shook hands with the new owner he sensed the investment she was making, and at the same time, realized another positive.
"She brings out the gentleman in the players," he said.
Brown also adores the "fixer-upper" mentality, taking an approach to a situation financial or personal and finishing it off with the way she sees fit. She loves NFL football "I'm from Texas," she said but looks at the Blaze as an opportunity to let those who fill the seats have an impact and enjoy the "hands-on" approach abandoned in most professional ranks.
"I think it's a piece that's been missing here the last couple of years," James said. "The expertise, and to be able to dig into the community and better serve them. â¦ I think she has a very good grasp of the customer base."
And supporters know it. When there were recent grumblings that the fan base wanted a new style of hat in the team store, Brown rallied her troops and figured out a way to appease.
After the new hat hit the racks, a fan noticed Brown walking around the arena before the game and thanked her.
"I told him, 'You're the guys who are filling these seats,' " Brown explained. "It's my job to honor them and their commitment to this team."
What fuels Brown's passion for sport and marketing is that she is self-made, and a self-made woman in a boys' club of pro sports owners. She isn't part of the New Orleans Bensons or the San Francisco DeBartolos. Brown's ascension to owner of a professional football team came through risk and reward and seizing the moment.
The Blaze are under Kim Brown's protective umbrella, and the Texas-born-and-raised owner is driven to leave her stamp and tackle anything that lays ahead.
She remains "fourth-and-goal" even as the boss.
"Me being a woman, especially in Utah, makes it even a little more complicated," she said, "but I saw it as a dream and a goal and you know what, I'm going to make this happen and do it with my personality."
Twitter: @chriskamrani A closer look
Blaze owner Kim Brown
Age • 54. Hometown • Houston
College • BYU
Sports background • Dad was a football coach. Twin brothers were a quarterback-wide receiver tandem. High school cheerleader, ran track and played volleyball.
Career • Started in ad sales at KCPX radio in 1986 and eventually moved up the ladder, working at FM100 and KUTV. Started marketing agency Kim Brown & Associates in March 2000.
Blaze • Became majority owner of the team in March 2013, partnering with Logan Hunter, among others. Purchased majority of shares from previous owner Kim Murdock.
Sharks at Blaze
O At EnergySolutions Arena
Kickoff • Saturday, 7 p.m.
TV • CBS Sports Network. Radio • 97.5 FM
Records • Blaze 4-7; Sharks 8-4
About the Sharks • Jacksonville is 1-4 against National Conference opponents. â¦ Starting quarterback Bernard Morris has been placed on the inactive reserve list. Kyle Rowley is expected to make the start. He threw for 1,153 yards this season while at Orlando.
About the Blaze • Utah's defense has allowed 253.1 yards a game, which is third in the league. â¦ In their last game, receivers Braylon Bell and A.J. Jackson combined for 12 catches and 158 yards.