Posted by: marcmwm | June 5, 2009

“Once in a career” guy

Northeast High School's Jeff Brinson, left, shoves Southeast High School defender Giovani Francois out of the way during an 80-yard touchdown run Friday at Southeast High School in Bradenton. Paul Videla/ (Credit: Bradenton Herald)

Northeast High School's Jeff Brinson, left, shoves Southeast High School defender Giovani Francois out of the way during an 80-yard touchdown run Friday at Southeast High School in Bradenton. Paul Videla/ (Credit: Bradenton Herald)

(MARC NOTE: My reason for this story is not to hype Jeff Brinson, but to give you a little background. I hope it’s not taken as “this guy is going to do this at Iowa.” I know that might be inevitable, but that’s not my intention. The perspective here is that this is a kid who’s still trying to crack the lineup and who’ll only be a redshirt freshman. This is the time of year for this type of story to spin out of control in the expectations department. Please, let’s keep it real.)

Before spring practice broke, I made some calls to high school coaches of some players fans might not know a lot about — TE Brad Herman, DT Mike Daniels and RB Jeff Brinson.

Metamora (Ill.) coach Pat Ryan got back to me on Herman. I found out he played with Purdue QB candidate Caleb TerBush at Metamora. Herman walked into the Metamora weightroom as a freshman at 6-foot-1, 150 pounds. He plugged into the program and is now 6-5, 242.

I was never able to hook up with Daniels’ coach at Highland (N.J.) Regional High School, Frank Plefka.

I did get a message from Northeast (St. Petersburg, Fla.) coach Jay Austin. He said he’d love to talk about Brinson, “one of my favorite people ever.”

That got my attention.

So, after a few rounds of phone tag, I talked with Austin about his time with Brinson, who’s No. 2 on the depth chart at running back behind sophomore Jewel Hampton.

Austin spent 10 seasons as an assistant at Northeast. He got the top gig when Brinson was a senior. Brinson already had a massive career, but as a senior hebrinson2 punched in big time for Austin, gaining 1,985 yards and scoring 24 TDs on 260 carries. Before opposing defense wised up, Brinson was gaining 330 yards a game. Austin explains “wising up” this way, “The first three weeks, before they started putting all 11 up there in the box, he was averaging 330 yards a game. That was something to watch. It was something to watch.”

“Coaches call them once-in-a-career guy, you get these guys once in a career,” Austin said. “I happened to get him my first year.

“I just thought so much about him as a person, who he carried himself, almost professionally, at such a young age. He carried himself with such class. Never had a problem with anybody or anything. He was just one of those kinds of kids. It’s why you coach, for kids like that, you know? He was a great, great, great football player, but I always told everybody he was an even better kid.”

 My question then was “how?” How did Brinson carry himself? How did that great person come out?

“In all facets of it,” Austin said. “He’s got really strong faith. He didn’t pretend or just say it, he showed it. He wasn’t one of those guys who’d pray in the end zone and come back cussing in the huddle. He practiced what he preached, basically, no pun intended.

“He busted his tail in class. He was always the first guy there and the last one to leave. He had to overcome a lot of things at home, with a single mother and moving all the time. They moved four or five times.

“Those were the type of things they’d overcome and he was still that type of kid. If you want to know what a complete football player and complete person is, that’s him. The way he carried himself, the way kids respected him. He did things the right way and, sometimes, that’s not cool, to be that kind of kid. He didn’t give a damn. He carried himself the way he thought he should do it and that’s how he was.”

I wanted to know about Brinson’s routine. He was strong in his church, studied hard, carried the football 40 times on Friday nights and held various part-time jobs (Winn-Dixie, K-Mart, Walgreens) to help out at home.

“He got up about 5:15 in the morning. Catch a bus. Came to school. He went to classes and he would work his tail off to make sure he got it right. He’d practice football and then he’d go to work until 11 at night. He’d wake up the next morning and start all over again. It’s unbelievable.”

Austin said Brinson was a member of the Junior Black Caucus and, occasionally, conducted sermons in his church. “He had a sermon before he left, with the church, did a wonderful job with that. He was very involved with it. He didn’t just say it, he lived it. He’s very much a man of God, I guess you would say.”

The fact that Brinson had battles with asthma came out during Iowa’s Outback Bowl trip. Coach Kirk Ferentz said it was something Brinson battled early in camp and it wasn’t uncommon for athletes who moved from warm-weather climates to Iowa City.

Austin said the asthma never limited Brinson, but it was a factor that needed monitoring.

“He’s had it all of his life,” Austin said. “We didn’t have the means and the ways of treating it as I’m sure they do on the medical staff up there in Iowa. If we had a real dry day with the humidity down, he’d struggle with it. But when the humidity came back, he’d be OK. You just hoped it didn’t happen on a Thursday or Friday and we didn’t have to take him out.

“He struggled with it. We only had primitive ways of treating it in high school. We don’t have the trainers and medical staff they have in Iowa. He’s handled that, too. He always worried about it. He was always worried about having to come out of game because of that. He never really did, though.”

The serious, adult demeanor carried onto the field.

“He was one of those guys who begged to stay in the game,” Austin said. “You’ve got guys who beg to get out now. He just led, and he wasn’t a very loud guy. He was very, very, very soft-spoken.

“One time, I’ll never forget, I pulled him out of a game and said, listen, quarterback can’t get the play called because y’all are talking too much in the huddle. He just looked at me and said, yes sir. The quarterback came over to me and said, coach, that wasn’t Jeff talking. He (Brinson) didn’t say that wasn’t me. He didn’t react. That’s the kind of kid he is, just ‘yes, sir’ and ‘no, sir.’ Just a dream to coach. I wish I had 22 of him. We’d never lose a game.”

What kind of football player was Brinson at Northeast?

“He’s a first quarter, fourth quarter guy,” Austin said. “We always said he got better in the fourth quarter. But no, he was always great, it was just the defenses got worn out. He was bringing the same thing he brought in the first quarter in the fourth quarter. He carried the ball 41 times one night and it looked like he didn’t even break a sweat. Just relentless.”

Austin offered the following analogy.

“We were playing Boca Ciega, they have us 10-6. We’ve got a 3-and-7 on their 21-yard line and everyone in the stadium knew what play we were going to run. We ran 44 power and we ran it to the left side. A guy came around, reached over the top of him (Brinson) and grabbed his ear hole and pulled his helmet off. We’re about 5 yards short of the first down. That kid turns around and ducks his head, takes on two LBs and a CB, splits them and falls forward for the first down.

“I just knew — I didn’t even want him to get up and look at me — I just knew they split his face, just completely tore it off. It was helmet-to-head contact. He got up, flipped the ball to the referee, clapped his hands, picked up his helmet and ran back to the huddle. I’m like, holy (bleep). I can’t believe I saw what I just saw. Three plays later, he took it in to score the winning TD. Everyone knew what play we were going to run. He said, nope. He wasn’t going to be denied. That’s just what he was.”

Iowa was the first school to offer Brinson a scholarship. This went a long way in the Hawkeyes securing his commitment. Brinson had offers from several schools, but he didn’t have one from his favorite, Florida State. According to Austin, by the time the FSU staff came calling, the hay was in the barn.

“One of the best things about him is this. Iowa offered him first. But one of his favorite schools as a kid was Florida State, since he was a kid. They have a pharmacy school and he liked that. He wanted to go into all that,” Austin said.

“Those guys screwed around and screwed around until the last week of February. (FSU coaches) rode around the neighborhood and I called Jeff, ‘These guys are wearing me out, do you want to talk to them?’ He said, ‘No coach, I’ve already made up my mind.’

“They got a hold of one of the assistant coaches and they found out his momma (Tangelia Dickens) worked at Walgreen’s. They went to the damn Walgreen’s, set up a meeting and went to his house for two hours and put on the full-court press. This was three days before signing day. They were trying to get him to change.

“He said, ‘No, you guys are too late. I’ve made up my mind.’ I was so proud of him. I didn’t have a doubt, but you never know what kids are going to do when they get hammered so close to the end. I was just so happy he went up there. Iowa was with him the whole time. That’s how he is, though. He’s loyal. I can’t say enough about the kid.

“You might think, oh, there’s got to be something wrong. But I’m telling you right now, there’s not a downside to that kid at all.”

Well, one downside. Austin said he’s very, very quiet and doesn’t like interviews.

Iowa's Jeff Brinson (left) plays South Carolina's Stoney Woodson in Madden Football during an outing at Gameworks in Ybor City on Monday, Dec. 29, 2008, in Tampa, Fla. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

Iowa's Jeff Brinson (left) plays South Carolina's Stoney Woodson in Madden Football during an outing at Gameworks in Ybor City on Monday, Dec. 29, 2008, in Tampa, Fla. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)


  1. Marc, we’re supposed to ‘keep it real’ after reading this? I can’t wait to see this guy play!

  2. LOL! I thought I’d better throw that caveat in there, Mike.

    I am too. I thought he looked great in the spring scrimmage.

  3. This kid is Earl Campbell, Shonn Greene and the Pope all rolled in to one.

    I foresee a 2,500 yard season this year and two Heisman’s, minimum.

    Kidding, sounds like a great young man, mainly due keeping his commitment when FSU was his fave school growing up. In this day and age that says a lot about a young man.

  4. LOL, E!

    Well, what would be a logical, attainable goal for the guy next season? (I first wrote “golf,” so that tells you where my mind is today.)

  5. Strictly as a comparison of situation instead of talent, here. Auburn had Ronnie Brown and Cadillac Williams in the same backfield (hell, the same class) and they found ways to get both of them the ball, sometimes even both on the field at the same time. That’s going to be Iowa’s challenge. I imagine it’ll involve Jewel in the slot more than Brinson, but then you’d have to split Wegher out wide. It’ll be tough, but still, nice problem to have.

    As attainable goals go for 2009, to match Hampton’s 2008 production would be a nice start, right?

  6. That’s what I was thinking, OPS.

    That’d put him at 500 yards and around 5 TDs.

    Barring OL injury, Iowa will have a 1,200-yard back next year. Right now, I say it’s Jewel.

  7. Between the change-of-pace that Brinson offers, his innate talent, Stanzi’s ability to keep opposing Ds honest with the long ball, and the great talent of our OL … I’m anticipating that Brinson will potentially get around 500 to 600 yards as a RS FR. He could very much play the role that Lewis played for Russell in 2002. Of course, that’s not to say that we’ll repeat the success of 2002 … however, we’ll run the ball pretty well.

  8. Lewis and Russell, excellent example, Homer.

    That worked well. Lewis was perfect against Michigan. He had (strength) what Fred didn’t and it was a perfect fit against that Michigan team (I know Fred was hurt nad it just worked out that way).

  9. Nah, Brinson will probably have better production than Hampton did as a TR FR. For one thing, my bet is that Brinson will be more patient for the hole to develop than Hampton typically is. Furthermore, I don’t see much chance that Hampton will see nearly as many touches as Greene saw.

    I’m thinking that Iowa will likely have around 450 carries to distribute to the different RBs. I’d say that Hampton will probably nab around 240 of those. That still leaves 210 carries to be shared between Brinson, O’Meara, Wegher, and Robinson.

  10. marc –

    FYI, I agree with your 1200 yard projection for Jewel. That is, assuming that his hammy issues coming out of spring camp don’t persist.

    Just do the math from my projection … 240 carries at 5 yards a carry results in a 1200 yard rusher!

  11. I like the Lewis and Russell example too … however, style-wise, Hampton runs much more “down-hill” than Russell. I think that we’ll see Hampton as a guy who will get a much of no gainers as he rides right in the back of his blockers … a bunch of 5 yard gains as he hits very narrow creases too fast, and then breaks a bunch of long runs just because opposing front sevens simply won’t have time to react.

    It’s in that way that I predict that Brinson will offer more of a change of pace. I kinda anticipate that he’ll be a bit more patient for the hole to open and a bit more fluid in his running.

  12. […] This post was Twitted by LiveAustin – […]

  13. Homer, Brinson’s instincts were sharp in the spring scrimmage. He showed some cutback.

  14. Kirk’s comments regarding Jeff were as glowing as any I’ve heard. Sounds like a great young man, with or without the football.

  15. Marc: Thanks for the great article on Jeff Brinson. I had a feeling there was something special about Jeff, when Kirk went out of the way to talk about Jeff, even though, he wasn’t seeing the field, as of YET!

  16. Kids like that are a big part of why I’m working to become a teacher.

    After reading that, as far as I’m concerned Jeff is already a success regardless of what happens on the football field.

    Also, who wants Iowa to play FSU in a bowl game??!!
    /raises hand

  17. Jebus — He challenges himself in school, too. Sounds like he takes it on as hard as he does football. When I talked to him during recruiting, he was interested in civil engineering. That initial thought doesn’t always stick for incoming freshman — I wanted to be an accountant — but that’s a good place to start.

  18. Alex — I think Brinson was closer to seeing the field than we thought. I think once his asthma cleared up, he had a jersey number change, from 34 to 44. I think they were close to at least using him on kick returns.

  19. Bucket — But that would mean Champs Sports Bowl!!?!?!?!?

    Yuck. Orlando, yuck.

  20. Marc, first time poster, long time reader. Great write up, I am excited about this year. Last year Greeen was a “diamond in the rough”. We really did not know what we had. This year we may not and most likely wont get the same production from one person, but i dont see any reason (barring injury) that we can not rush for 2000-2250 yards by committee. I am getting so pumped for Iowa Football!

  21. @ marcmwm: True, assuming FSU isn’t any better than one should expect them to be.
    We’ll leave the Champs Sports Bowl to the Wisconsins and MSUs and possibly the Illinoises of the world (although the latter would be better relegated to Motor City because I’m childish and spiteful).

  22. Justin — Thanks for posting! I want college football here now. I want to watch the Mountain West media days. Yes, it’s that bad for me.

  23. Bucket — I’m good with childish and spiteful and Illinois in the Detroit.

  24. I think OPS hits the nail on the head. KOK is going to have to figure out that it is prefectly legal to have two running backs on the field at the same time. One of the many huge frustrations 2 years ago was the fact that Simms and Young rarely saw the field at the same time. Obviously it wasn’t an issue last year, but I think this year it is going to be key. It may actually require a defense to figure who has the ball and not just if the run is zone left or zone right.

  25. 91 days, and reading a story likes this makes it seem VERY far away! I’m anxious to see this 1-2 RB punch, and now knowing a little more about Jeff will have me pulling hard for him!

  26. Three, yes, it would be nice to see that wrinkle in year 11. But Iowa’s two-back is so FB-centric. The second back has 99.9 percent of the time been a fullback. IIRC, they messed with Jermelle and Fred in at the same time and a little (very little) of AY and Sims. They’re married to the FB. When it worked like it did last season, you can’t blame them. But during 2006-07, it was an open sore.

  27. Thanks for posting, FlyHawk.

    Is that flying a plane Hawk or fly fishing Hawk?

  28. Neither — long story. 🙂

  29. Golf.

  30. Great work Marc! I have a new favorite Hawkeye!


  31. Thanks, Greg.

    Cubs win!

  32. Back in 2006, when we were stuck breaking in new WRs, the coaches lined up Young in the slot and had Greene in the backfield. We flashed that set some. I think that we split Sims out wide too.

    I suspect that we’ll return to that, with the preference of having the power runner in the backfield. Thus, I anticipate that Wegher/Hampton will get split out in the slot and Brinson will be lined up in the backfield.

    Does anybody recall if we ever had the RB split out wide ever go in motion? I don’t remember myself.

  33. I think I remember Albert going in motion a few times, but we’re talking less than 1 percent in KF’s 10-plus seasons.

  34. marc, a cfew recruiting questions: anything in the interview that mentioned how Iowa got in ahead of Miami and Florida, or if they were even interested? Just curious. Was Jeff the guy who missed much/most/all of his junior year with an injury? Which Iowa coach found and recruited Jeff?


  35. marc,

    Of course, in KF’s years here, we only had 3 (or maybe 4) years where the pass to run ratio was greater than 1 to 1. Also, Albert was one of our better RBs at catching the ball … so it was natural that he would/could pull that off.

    Maybe I’m just off my rocker, but it’s always seemed to me that Iowa’s coaches adjust to their personnel much more than the fans give them credit.

    For instance, Iowa has used their FBs with much greater versatility in the past too … it’s mainly been since Busch that I has just used the FB as a glorified guard. Just look at guys like Cervantes, Mickens, and especially Allen.

    I’d also say that few teams use their TEs quite as versatilely as Iowa does.

  36. You are dead on here homerhawk. They don’t get as much credit as they deserve. I’ve honestly never quite understood the “predictability” thing at all.

    1) I think it is just what fans say when something is wrong and they can’t figure out what so they lash out with this old tried and true formula.
    2) I hear the same thing said about even spread teams regularly see above……………..
    3) The infamous statement made by opposing teams was said about our defense not our offense, yet no one has any real problem with our “predictable” D, or least they shouldn’t.


  37. Kent — Iowa was the first to offer Brinson, before FSU and Miami (I don’t know if Miami ever did offer). The FSU coach-in-waiting led the chase in that late signing day grab.

    Iowa’s main recruiter would’ve been Phil Parker or Rich Kaczenski. Phil Parker mined the Gulf coast of FLA for years but then handed it over to Kaczenski when he hopped on board. I’m not sure how that timed up with Brinson’s recruitment, though.

  38. Homer, last year I wrote a story about FB production. I wish I had a link to it. It shows exactly what you’re saying. The FB production spiked with Jeremy Allen and fell off the table with Tom Busch. It was an obvious trade-off, blocking for receiving.

  39. Great point, Chad.

    It can’t take long to scout Iowa’s defense, but, at times, it can take forever to beat it.

  40. The number one thing about Iowa’s D, especially when we have the personnel is we are most always in the right place. We rarely miss tackles, you can’t get behind us and we punish you. The ONLY way to beat it is to execute play after play after play and that is tough for ANY team to do.

    Here is how were we have failed, when we don’t get pressure (not sacks) but pressure out of our front 4 we are susceptible. Even then when you can consistently play in your base D, with Lbers who can get in space, it cuts down the passing lanes. People don’t realize you don’t have to be on top of every “receiver” you only have to be in the way of the routes so it has to be a “perfect” throw to get past you.

    In 2006 & 2007 we missed a few tackles and more importantly we wore down because of our ineptness on Offense. Therefore not only giving up bigger plays, but essentially giving the opposing O more opportunities because we couldn’t “posses” the ball (obligatory soccer term here…LOL))
    We also had some poorer efforts and attitudes than we have had in years past, though to me that was more prevalent on O than D!

    I do apologize for the length here, but I am passionate about our D, and defense in particular. I don’t think people understand, but we are as good as any team in the country at finding athletic, defensive talent in all packages. We have had some of the best, most athletic Lbers in the country for 5 or 6 years running. We have always had very good safeties’ and we now suddenly have some pretty athletic, active Corners. Coupled with typically good defensive linemen and we are very tough to handle on D.

    You honestly can’t game plan around us, you can only execute over, and over, and over gain.

    I’ll take our chances.


  41. Excellent post Marc.

    Guys like this make the 240 mile Saturday morning drives worth it in the fall.



  42. Chad — That’s right about the executing. Great QBs can do that. There aren’t a lot of great QBs around.

  43. Sean — Thanks for the kinds words.

    Two-hundred and forty miles? Are you coming from Sioux City?

  44. Council Bluffs, actually. Been making the morning drives for about 10 years now. Started out just me and whoever was crazy enough to go with me and now it is me, the wife, my son and, for her first season of Hawkeye football, my daughter. She will be 7 months old for the first kick! My son was 10 weeks old when we took him to Syracuse…:D

    Usually up and out by about 5AM for an 11 o’clock kick.



  45. That’s awesome, Sean.

    What great memories.

  46. Brinson is boing to start over Hampton by year end.

  47. jb= otis armstong but better outside, small ron dane, not same first step as the kid from seffner that couldn’t make grades at iowa. but same power and football speed. and just a 10 lbs lighter.

  48. Thanks, Terry.

    That sounds pretty good.

  49. […] […]

  50. […] This seems like a good time for a rerun Get to know Jeff Brinson. […]

  51. […] […]

  52. […] […]

  53. […] Paki O’Meara/Jeff Brinson […]

  54. […] king at St. Petersburg’s Northeast High School. His coach, Jay Austin, considers him a “once in a lifetime” […]

  55. […] Last summer, I talked to Brinson’s prep coach, Northeast High School’s Jay Austin. Here’s that story. […]

  56. […] Jay Austin, Brinson’s coach at Northeast High School in St. Pete. You can read that here.Too bad it didn’t work out. You can only hope he finds what he’s looking […]

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