Paul Brown has once again found his home in Massillon.

The city's celebrated high school football coach, who went on to coach the pros in Cleveland and Cincinnati, now has his own digs inside the Massillon Museum.

The debut of the Paul Brown Museum within the museum is part of rivalry weekend, marking the end of the regular high school season when Massillon squares off against Canton McKinley.

But like drawing up football plays and developing a team, the space is still a work in progress.

Workers were busy this past week installing small photographs of the coach and his inspirational phrases, setting up displays for everything from his trademark hat to his gold jacket from his enshrinement at the Pro Football Hall of Fame just down the road.

The reality is the coach's stuff never left the city where he made his mark in elevating high school football to a whole new level of devotion.

Boosters have been collecting and archiving everything Brown-related, from photos to personal papers to a hat from the high school marching band he had a hand in starting.

But the Massillon Tiger Football Booster Club's collection did not have a permanent home, bouncing from location to location over the years, with much of it kept stored in boxes until the club partnered with the museum.

And thanks to a $5.5 million expansion of the taxpayer-supported museum, the collection can be archived and put on public view.

 

Ahead of his time

The Paul Brown Museum occupies an upper floor of the new section of the museum, which was once a dry-goods store and later an O'Neil's department store.

Alexandra Nicholis Coon, the Massillon Museum's executive director, said the three-story addition nearly doubles the exhibit space and adds classrooms, meeting space, even a gift shop and a renovated cafe.

The space includes a Paul Brown Library where visitors and researchers will be able to make appointments to look over original papers, photographs and other documents related to his coaching career. Work on the library should be completed before the end of the year.

The initial exhibit will be "Lessons from the Bench," culled from Brown's writings and locker-room speeches over the years.

Bailey Yoder, the museum's curator of football heritage, said while doing research for the exhibit, she found it interesting that Brown's approach to handling his players was as far ahead of its time as his coaching on the field.

Yoder said Brown (1908-1991) took a holistic approach, telling the players that to excel on the field they also had to be their best off the field. That included being well-groomed and keeping their homes squeaky clean.

To take in all these lessons, visitors can sit on a bench that was once in the locker room where the Tigers would get ready for big games, just like the coach himself who was a quarterback for the Tigers before returning to his alma mater as head coach in 1932.

He spent nine years there, posting a record of 80-8-2, including a 35-game winning streak and six state football championships.

He was an innovator, too, in creating a playbook for players, being considered the first to send in plays to the quarterback from the sidelines, reviewing film with players and even inventing the football face mask.

Brown would go on to coach the Buckeyes at Ohio State, and later was the first head coach for the Browns and Bengals, winning eight league championships.

 

Muni Lot fandom

As visitors make their way through Brown's storied career, they will arrive at the "Loyal to the Lot" exhibit that is also opening to the public this weekend.

It is a collection of images taken by Akron photographer Stephen Tomasko, who has been traveling to the Cleveland Municipal Lot since 2012 to capture tailgaters before Browns games.

The photos show the highs and lows — mostly lows given the teams struggles on the field — of the loyal fans.

"It really is a most remarkable thing — the generosity, enthusiasm and understanding that crosses many cultural and social lines in The Lot," Tomasko describes his ambitious photography project. "People who might literally be at each other’s throats in the world at large fling themselves into this party together. Across race and ethnic lines, from the wealthy to the homeless poor, young and old, east siders and west siders (a huge cultural divide in Cleveland) all assemble under one banner for these five or so hours eight times a year. Together we improbably celebrate with joy in the face of it all.

" 'Here we go, Brownies. Here we go!' "

Nicholis Coon said the goal is to have the exhibits evolve over time and continue to explore the coach's impact not only on the sport he loved but the community he called home.

And some of the changes will be swift, as it was not possible to get all the work finished in time for this weekend's game. Large photos of the coach will cover the walls and a timeline of his life has yet to be installed.

"There is still some tweaking to be done," she said.

 

Craig Webb can be reached at cwebb@thebeaconjournal.com or 330-996-3547.