Your password needs to be at least 8 characters and one number.
LARRY DROWN IS A LEGEND IN KLEIN ISD.
Well, it takes one to know one.
When Drown was a kid in Minnesota, his father got him a job selling newspapers at Metropolitan Field, the home of the Minnesota Twins.
“I hustled for three cents for every newspaper I sold,” he said. “It was a great job because I was around the likes of Harmon Killebrew, Mickey Mantle, Brooks Robinson, Carl Yastrzemski, Al Kaline – all the legends back then. I got to see Rod Carew and Tony Oliva take their first at-bats in the Majors. That’s how I learned the game when I was 11 and 12-years old.
“I was very observant and watched the centerfielders (Lenny Green and Jimmie Hall). I was left-handed and played outfield, too. I’d watch them in pregame and how they got a jump on the ball. How they reacted live off the bat. I was engrained in baseball. It was a huge part of my life growing up.”
Drown moved to Arlington, Texas as a junior in high school when his dad went to work with Raslton Purina. He played baseball at Arlington and was a tireless worker.
“I had this bag of baseballs that I collected from Twins’ pregame batting practices with me from Minnesota,” he laughed. “Like 80 or more baseballs. Me and my buddy would take batting practice and we wore those balls out.”
“Those balls were all autographed by the greats that I had signed when I was working at the ballpark,” Drown said. “What those balls would be worth today.”
Drown went on to play at Hill Junior College and then Texas Tech before getting into coaching high school football and baseball.
“I received my first baseball head coaching job at Graham High School and then moved on to Magnolia,” he said. “In 1984, I was hired at the newly-opened Klein Forest, where I was for 20 years.”
Drown was an assistant for football and baseball, before being named the head baseball coach in 1992.
“I got to coach a bunch of great kids,” he said. “We really had to work to compete in a tough district. We made the playoffs in 1994, 1996 and 1998. Our coaching staff was one of the best a guy could ever work with.”
Some of my great assistants included Robert Ray, Steve Brewer, Tony Cugini and Lee Koslosky.
Coincidently, one of his assistants was Lance Alexander – the school’s current principal.
“Larry Drown coached baseball for years at Klein Forest,” Alexander said. “During his tenure, he was highly respected in the community and in baseball coaching circles. As a young assistant coach learning from him, he modeled how you are supposed to treat students and how to do things the right way.”
While the wins and losses were important, Drown’s biggest legacy was what he taught off the field.
“Baseball is about the attention to detail, it’s about discipline, it’s about hard work paying off,” he said. “It’s about hustling on and off the field. It’s a way of life. You just take all of those qualities and apply them to your life outside of baseball.”
In February, Klein ISD dedicated the baseball diamond at Klein Forest to their former coach. It will be named Larry Drown Field.
Drown retired in 2004 and launched another career by accident. While also working in the district, his wife doubled in an after-school program from elementary students.
“She asked me to take her spot,” he said. “I said no, but she insisted. I liked it once I got involved. It changed hands over the next few years, and I didn’t like the direction it was going. I quit one day and then I was on Legal Zoom starting up my own program. If I was going to do it, I was going to do it the right way.”
Drown started Campus Kids, LLC. Ehrhardt Elementary became his first client with just 16 students. Over time, it began to flourish and now Campus Kids is on 41 campuses.
“We have been able to hire the best people, give them what they need and don’t micromanage them,” he said. “We provide a safe environment, have homework time with some of the best educators and then have some fun outdoor activities.
“Some of the funds we raise act as a fundraiser for each school,” he said. “We’ve been able to give back over $1 million back to the district.”
Even in his 70s, Drown has no plans of slowing down.
“He has devoted his life to caring for kids in this district,” Alexander said. That’s what legends are made of.
Klein Forest's Parker Jenkins, Jelani Watkins and Brad Spence hold up offer letters during a VYPE photoshoot on April 27, 2022 at Klein Forest High School.
HOUSTON – When college coaches walk through the pair of glass doors leading into the Klein Forest fieldhouse, they know who they are there to see.
Third-year Golden Eagles coach Johnathan Wilson knows too.
“I call them the Big 3,” Wilson said with a smile.
The three that he is referring to is Class of 2023 prospects in defensive end Brad Spence and running back Parker Jenkins and then Class of 2024 product Jelani Watkins at receiver.
Since the Class of 2022 recruiting cycle ended in February, the recruitment of Klein Forest’s newly minted “Big 3” has exploded.
According to 247 Sports the trio has a combined to garner 71 college football offers as of April 28 with more on the way.
“I’ve been enjoying it,” Spence said. “It’s a new experience and something I’ve always dreamed of. As a kid I always wanted the big scholarships and go through the recruiting process. I was prepped for it because my dad went through it, so he gave me the ins and outs of it.”
Jenkins added: “It has been crazy talking to tons of coaches, my phone has been blowing up. Sometimes I have to step away from it to let me just take it all in. Then I go back to texting coaches and stuff. It is enjoyable but it can be overwhelming.”
The list of offers is impressive.
It is one that includes LSU, Texas, Texas A&M, Baylor, Texas Tech, Florida State, Arkansas, Missouri and Houston to name a few. Power 5 programs from the Big 12, SEC and the Big 10 all on the other end of the line.
“I did not expect this buzz to happen [so quick],” Wilson said. “What we try to do as a coaching staff is to constantly promote our program with social media. Try to be the new up and coming program in the city of Houston. Luckily we have had good players to back that.
“It does wonders for the rest of the program. Those young guys, like the 2025s and 2026s, they see Texas is there, A&M is coming to the school. This guy got this offer and that offer. So, it gives them goals and real aspirations that they feel like they can reach now because the guy in the same locker room got that offer. They feel it.”
The buzz around the halls of Klein Forest is palpable, which hasn’t been the case in recent years when it came to the football program.
Prior to Wilson’s arrival, Klein Forest was going winless, suffering 1-9 seasons and not producing recruits in this quantity. You have to go back to the early 2000s when Matthew Davis donned the green and gold to find a big name.
Since Wilson arrived, the program went 1-7 in the first season in 2020 but then pieced together a 5-5 mark in 2021 – the most wins since 2011.
With the wins and success on the field has brought with it the buzz around the Big 3 of Watkins, Jenkins and Spence as they aim to put Klein Forest firmly back on the map and a must-stop for every college recruiter in the nation.
“A couple of years ago Klein Forest was nowhere to be found,” Jenkins said. “So with us three putting them back on the map, it is just a good feeling.”
Spence added: “It is crazy that I was a part of that. As it was rising, I was like this is really happening. It was crazy to go through that phase with Coach Wilson. We’re putting them back on the map. We have the [motto] going of ‘Change the Culture’, so we’re building the culture from the ground up.”
📍Klein Forest HS In 2010 it was Matt Davis … in 2022 meet The Big 3 of @BradSpence_ @laaared1 and @NewEra_PJ3 #txhsfb #recruiting pic.twitter.com/2XtcaZmxrw— VYPE Houston (@vypehouston) April 27, 2022
What has also come with the Big 3 being recruited really together, most of the time each of them getting offered by the same college on the same day, is a tighter bond.
This past weekend, Watkins, Jenkins and Spence pulled up to Klein Forest High on Saturday morning at 5 am to jump into Wilson’s truck so he could drive them to Baton Rouge for LSU’s spring game.
“It was awesome, it was a once in a lifetime experience,” Wilson said. “I have never been to LSU. They really showed us a lot of love and attention. They basically rolled out the red carpet for us. The kids really enjoyed themselves. It was a good bonding experience for us too as coaches and players. We got a chance to hang out with our guys, took pictures and enjoyed the experience.”
The trip was uniquely special for Watkins, who was born in Louisiana.
“It was great, I hadn’t been there in a minute,” he said. “When I went back, I was happy. Then the craziest thing happened. We were talking about Tyrann Mathieu and then out of nowhere he just appeared. I froze up.”
After the day was over, everyone piled back into Wilson’s truck and they made the trek back to Houston.
Wilson, who in his previous job served as the recruiting coordinator, is all about getting his guys recruited. Whether that be calling and emailing coaches or even driving them to camps and visits when their parents can’t.
Wilson is all-in on these Golden Eagles’ future and they players see it.
“That just shows that it means a lot to him for us going to be going to college,” Spence, who Wilson drove to Austin for his visit with the Longhorns where he was eventually offered, said. “Some coaches, they don’t go all the way for their players. So, it shows he really cares about us and has a brotherhood relationship.”
Watkins added: “It means a lot because it shows that he cares about us. He’ll do anything to get me to that college for a visit or something.”
As the trio has gotten even closer over the past months, Jenkins and Spence growing on their natural relationship of being cousins and then Watkins being brought into the mix, they are tighter than ever.
Jenkins and Watkins also run on the track team in the 4x100-meter relay together. Watkins also is a part of the 4x200 relay, which owns the fastest time in the country to date and has also broken school records in the 200-meter dash. Jenkins has excelled at the 100-meter dash also.
So, from family ties, to handing off a baton to one another and then taking long car rides to colleges all over the country, the Big 3 are becoming closer than ever.
“It’s grown a lot,” Watkins said. “Last year, we didn’t really speak that much. This year we’ve really had a brotherly connection.”
With the rise in wins on the field and now the success in the recruiting world, Wilson – who is a Klein Forest graduate himself – is seeing the that they are on the way back up.
Which is right where he wants his program to go.
“We want to be back relevant,” Wilson said. “We preach to our kids that we haven’t been to the playoffs in 10 years. We could be the group that turns this thing around. We’re hanging our hat on that this season.”
For the players, like Jenkins who enters his senior campaign this fall, their goals are aligned with coach’s aspirations.
At the end of the day, they want to leave Klein Forest in a spot of upward trajectory that the classes after them will continue to grow on.
“The goal is to win State but if we just make it to the playoffs that’s another building block added,” Jenkins said. “Yes, we want to win State but we can also build on that for Jelani and the Class of 2024 and Class of 2025 to go on and win State.
“So, it is about building a legacy at the school.”