There might not be a tougher man in the NFL than Kansas City Chiefs defensive line coach Tommy Brasher.
Over the past 15 years, Brasher has been challenged.
The lessons of meeting these kinds of challenges head-on was instilled in Brasher by his father, Ferry, who spent four years of Brasher’s early life fighting in World War II.
During his battle with cancer back more than a decade ago, Brasher was working with the Philadelphia Eagles as their defensive line coach.
He was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor in his parotid gland on October 16, 2001, which fell right in the middle of the NFL season.
Brasher underwent a six-hour surgery to have it removed.
“I had surgery on a Monday, then another one on Wednesday and went back to work on Saturday,” he explained. “Then I worked a month before they called me and I had to have another surgery. I had it on a Wednesday and went back to work on Saturday as well.”
That second procedure was to have 67 lymph nodes removed from his neck and shoulder. He missed just five days of work total and not one snap of football.
“I felt that I should probably just recover doing the normal, natural thing,” he said. “I couldn't see how laying around was going to help me.”
This is the personification of toughness.
But even at 74 years old and with everything he’s been through, Brasher still has the gift of teaching and is every bit the leader of that Chiefs defensive line room.
“He’s not shy about telling us everything he knows,” Chiefs two-time Pro Bowl defensive lineman Dontari Poe said. “He’s been in the game a long time and has a lot of knowledge. For me, just being there to soak it all up has been really good for my career so far.
“He’s straightforward and he’s honest. He’s definitely earned my trust.”
That’s high praise from Poe, who has established himself under Brasher’s guidance as one of the most dominant defensive linemen in the NFL at just 24 years old.
Brasher is entering his 27th season in the NFL this fall and his third with the Chiefs. He was part of the Eagles staff that followed Andy Reid to Kansas City prior to the 2013 season.
This will be Brasher and Reid’s 11th season together overall.
But long before he was an NFL coach, Brasher was busy winning state championships as a two-way player (fullback, linebacker) at El Dorado High School in Arkansas.