Brandon in control of “HIS” team

Erin Schorr and Erin Schorr

Early before the sun has risen on a cold February morning, Bowling Green head football coach Gregg Brandon is awake and ready to start the day.

It’s 6 a.m. and he is in the Turf Room of the indoor facility. Brandon looks as if he is the one ready to condition in his gray hooded sweatshirt and black nylon pants but right now he waits for his team … HIS team.

Brandon moves about, never lingering in the same spot for too long. He is jovial, walking around, talking and joking with coaches and players waiting for the hands of his watch to show 6:30 a.m. Upon connection of the minute hand to the six all jokes are set aside and its time to mold his team.

As the station work commences, Brandon buzzes around the turf encouraging the players as the morning goes on. Brandon is an observer but is not as intense and up in player’s faces as other coaches have been, Scott Mruczkowski, a starting left guard., said. Brandon felt this change in coaching style was going to make the team better because the encouragement is making the team concentrate less on making mistakes.

“He makes you want to play well and do it for him,” tight end Craig Jarrett said.

This morning Brandon joins in the activities. Quarterbacks’ coach Mick McCall is surrounded by nine players jumping rope. Brandon steps right into the drill and tries his hand at improving his footwork. After a few revolutions he lands on the rope, stops, smiles and then starts again. It appears as though everyone is getting in shape for the sidelines of Brandon’s favorite place to play, Doyt Perry Stadium.

Next season will mark the first year that Brandon will be on the sidelines of the field. For the past two seasons he has been high above the field watching the game from the coaches’ box.

Early mornings are nothing new to Brandon. Since the age of 16 he has started many days in the early hours of the morning; how else do you plan to hike up and down some of the highest peaks in Colorado before the dinner bell makes its first chime?

To speak with Brandon about hiking is to see the true essence of the human spirit. Brandon’s face explodes into a smile that stretches farther than the distance between those favored peaks. The former Star Scout has climbed eight of the 54 peaks and has all of the climbs videotaped and logged in his personal library in his office on the east side of Doyt Perry Stadium. He is also quick to state that only two men have climbed all 54 peaks.

Not only does he have the news articles commemorating these men’s accomplishments, but also a picture of himself standing atop Longs Peak which sits 14,225 feet high. The picturesque backdrop showcases a light blue sky, dark brown rock and Brandon in a stance that resembles Rocky Balboa after beating his Russian opponent. Brandon comes across as being totally in his element; especially since he has a cell phone in his hand. “It didn’t work up there,” Brandon said, “but you better believe I tried.”

Brandon’s cell phone is always close to him. If it is not sitting atop his oak desk then it is up to his ear while he is on a long, lonely recruiting trip.

The father figure to the Falcons has been described by his players as very easy to talk to. This is apparent with all of the phone calls he is continuously plagued by. He does not seem to mind to take the needed time to solve any problem when he hears a familiar automated voice telling him he has an incoming call.

Offensive lineman John Lanning described him as a “player’s coach,” meaning the players know that he has their best interest in mind and is always looking out for them.

Bowling Green coaches have noticed this personality trait and have credited it to the fact that he is a family man. They have also described him as calm, cool and collected.

“He has the perfect temperament to be a head coach,” offensive coordinator Greg Studrawa said. “If panic breaks out, he gets the solution to the problem and goes with it.”

An example Studrawa gave was the 2001 game at Northwestern University.

With only a few ticks left on the clock, former BG coach Urban Meyer told Brandon he wanted to win it right then and there. Without hesitation, Brandon devised a game plan to get the job done. Receiver Robert Redd met the end zone and Receiver Cole Magner ran the 2-point conversion. Bowling Green stunned Northwestern, 43-42.

A sign in Coach Studrawa’s office said “None of us is strong as all of us.” Brandon realizes the truth behind this statement and has gathered a strong supporting cast that he jokingly describes as agile, hostile and mobile. They are willing to work 20-hour days without blinking an eye or ever blinking again, he said.

Yet, the office is not just filled with football talk. Coach Brandon and Studrawa have an on going battle over hockey. Coach Studrawa would like to think that if Brandon were not a coach he would be the play-by-play announcer for the Detroit Red Wings. Brandon would probably laugh in his face seeing that he is a Colorado Avalanche fan.

This rivalry is not the only one Brandon recognizes. He sees the rivalry between Bowling Green and “the team up north” to be the best in college football. The rivalry has gone as far as when asked about the team he just points northward towards I-75 as Falcon lure keeps the team from mentioning the Rockets in the offices.

One change he would like to enact for next year’s season, is to see the student body keep up the support for the team, and take it one step further. He would like them to “get nasty like they were in Northern Illinois.” He encourages the students to paint more bodies and to not only sit behind our bench but to flow over behind the opponent’s bench also. He has learned first hand how a crowd can intimidate a team and break their concentration and would like to teach other Mid-American Conference schools that same lesson.

While opening day at Doyt Perry seems to be far down the road, Coach Brandon’s team is ready to strap on the pads and would play tomorrow if he asked them to. Just ask Brandon or his Falcon Family how long until they play “the team up north” and the exact number of calendar days will fill your ears with surprise. The dawning of that day can’t come soon enough and the team couldn’t be more ready than to try to keep pace with the man of lofty goals that advises his players to “Never, never, never, never give up.”

As the morning conditioning sessions ends, the boys are jumping and huddled singing “Ay Ziggy Zoomba.” Under the watchful eye of Coach Gregg Brandon this will be a familiar sight for years to come.