Expect conversations with Wayzata football coach Lambert Brown to be interrupted when joining him on the practice field or in the weight room, or even walking through the high school cafeteria.
Blame it on relationship-building, one of Brown's bedrock philosophies that helped turn struggles into success at Fridley, Chaska and most recently, Wayzata. In four seasons at Wayzata, including the past three as head coach, Brown put the Trojans back into the conversation among Minnesota's elite football programs.
Wayzata finished 13-0 last fall and won the Class 6A title in the Prep Bowl, justifying Brown's reputation as a program rejuvenator and securing the Star Tribune Boys' Team Coach of the Year award.
"I don't know what the secret sauce would be, I just think that it's a combination of a lot of things," said Brown, rattling off assets such as a supportive community and school administration, good assistant coaches and hardworking players.
Molding today's players, however, means the "why" must be explained as well as the "how," and Brown has succeeded in creating buy-in. Players received a "Winner's Manual" each season loaded with Brown's philosophies, expectations and more.
"Kids want to build relationships, they want discipline, they want people to care about them and hold them accountable and to do that consistently over time," Brown said.
In 2016, Brown started as Wayzata's assistant varsity head coach under Brad Anderson. The next season was Brown's first as head coach and the Trojans went 2-7. A 5-5 season followed in 2018. Better but not near enough, not for a program that appeared in five Prep Bowls in eight seasons from 2004-11 and won three titles.
Then last fall, Wayzata raced to the top.
In Week 5, the Trojans claimed their first victory over perennial power Eden Prairie since 2012. Come the postseason, Wayzata's foes were overmatched by a stout offensive line and physical running back Christian Vasser.
In five playoff games, Vasser ran for 991 yards and 15 touchdowns, numbers many running backs couldn't touch in eight regular-season games.
"They played with great confidence because they know how they prepared, and they had conviction in what they were doing," Brown said. "When I first came in and saw them as ninth-graders, they said, 'We're going to be the group, coach.' And they love being around each other and loved playing with each other. It wasn't lip service. They had a tremendous brotherhood and when times got tough, they were able to lean on their relationships with each other and say, 'We're going to do this together.' "
Brown was the 2019 runner-up for the Don Shula NFL High School Coach of the Year award. He attended Super Bowl LIV in Miami and received $15,000 from the NFL Foundation, $10,000 of which will be directed to the Trojans' football programs.