By DOMINIC FERRUCCI (INDIANA SRN)
Indiana High School football kicked off this past weekend and you would be hard pressed to find a community more engaged and supportive of their team on Friday night than the town of Brownsburg. Athletic director Drew Tower, who has been immersed in the Brownsburg community for a decade, was quick to make it an emphasis that coaches and players encouraging one another is a standard for the Bulldogs. It is a standard that is lived out by all, and one that I noticed in my conversation with Tower, means a whole lot. Drew Tower was an athlete himself, playing basketball at New Castle High School before moving onto nearby Taylor University to continue his athletic career. Here he played under the late legendary coach Paul Patterson whose status in the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame merely scratches the surface of the impact he had on players. Patterson was so impactful, in fact, that Tower worked under him after college, switching lanes from his previously planned med-school track. By nature of any college coach, Tower was tasked with recruiting the next Taylor Trojans to join the program, one of which played under Steve Lynch at Mt. Vernon high school (Fortville). Around that same time, however, Lynch was leaving to become the next head coach for the Brownsburg Bulldogs and Tower was brought along for the journey. Meanwhile, the woman who helped hire Lynch was just beginning her own tenure, returning to her alma mater to serve as the director of athletics. Kelli Waggoner was hired just one month prior to Lynch and from the very beginning, she served as a mentor for Tower. The very cornerstone of inter athletic support was pioneered by Waggoner herself, and Tower explained that he is merely the one who has helped foster that tradition. Since the time of Lynch’s hiring and Tower’s arrival three conference championships and four 20-win seasons have been accomplished for the boys’ basketball team. And as we stand today, Tower acts as the athletic director both charting new ground and emulating the legacy of Waggoner, while Lynch still serves as head coach for the boys’ basketball squad.
There is more to the Brownsburg Bulldog athletics story than simply team success and player accolades, however, and Drew Tower would be the first to echo that sentiment. Tower’s community outreach work speaks for itself, contributing to Project 44, a non-profit helping patients in need of bone marrow to find a match through the bone marrow registry. Project 44 honors the late Andrew Smith, a former Butler University basketball player, who’s mission was sparked by his own need for a bone marrow transfusion. Project 44’s mission is literally saving lives and please visit: project44.org/ to find more information. Tower’s ties to the organization are through a couple of former high school teammates, Chase Stigall and Zach Hahn, who were teammates of Smith during their college careers. And Tower’s service for the community does not stop there. Continuing this winter will be Brownsburg’s Sneakers for Santa Event. With six marquee matchups on the girl’s side on Saturday, November 26th, and seven games the following week on the boy’s side, Brownsburg’s project promotes the game of basketball and care for the community. Tower tells me that over 6,000 pairs of sneakers are donated to those in need, all stemming from the event. The matchups for the event were recently announced and they will not disappoint. Last year’s 3A state champion SB Washington takes on 4A’s reigning champ Noblesville on the girl’s side while top recruits Xavier Booker and Gabe Cupps battle it out when Indianapolis Cathedral and Centerville (OH) take the court on the boy’s side one week later. An event that promises to stir up some early season buzz on the court, will be even better for the community, and that, now entering its second season of girl’s action and third for boys, has been the mission all along.
What impressed me most about the conversation I had with Tower was his understanding of what high school athletics is all about; forming leaders in the community. Brownsburg high school does this through their SALT program (Student Athlete Leadership Team) consisting of 120 student athletes spanning across all 22 athletic programs. Tower explained the buy-in from coaches, players, and higher education administrators including the superintendent! Embarking on its second year, Brownsburg’s SALT will learn skills that go beyond competing to be the best player they can be in the midst of competition because as Tower explained, he is in the athletic business serving people. It is the people that are served in Tower’s work with Project 44 and Sneakers for Santa that inspired me to write this story. As Indiana high school sports fans, we recognize Brownsburg as having premier programs across a variety of sports, and the school’s talent spans beyond sports as well. Brownsburg’s student broadcast (BCSC) is making headway across the state and they continue to improve. Under the direction of Adam Good, BCSC has raised the bar for student broadcast production and it is yet another feather in the cap of the phenomenal environment built by Tower and his colleagues. It was their leadership that motivated and helped the Bulldog student section win the 2021 Operation Football trophy given by Channel 13 and the Zone Banner awarded by Channel 8 in 2018. Accolades like these are awarded to members that do not contribute on the field, yet for Tower, these are the contributions that mean the most. Tower noted that he has been surrounded by great people throughout his time in the community, a tune that he repeated throughout our conversation, and a tune that even from an outsider’s perspective, can be listened to and appreciated.