A large cart full of bottled watersat outside the Gophers lockeroom after practice on Wednesday, while a trainer handed the water to all the football players as if they were marathon runners.
While many of the players, including offensive lineman Jake Kuppe, took more than one bottle, junior Jack Brewer didn’t want his.
“You’ll need it, it’s going to be hot down in Texas,” the trainer said to Brewer.
“No I don’t,” Brewer replied. “I lived in it for 19 years. I was born and raised in it. I’m ready for it.”
The “it” Brewer refers to is the near 100-degree temperature the Gophers have waiting for them in Texas on Saturday when they take to the field at Baylor.
But Brewer, who is the Gophers only two-way player, isn’t worried about the heat. He’s worried about performing well in front of the 80-90 friends and family members who will make the short trip from Dallas down to Waco to see him play.
“It will be like high school again,” said Brewer, who is the cousin of Minnesota running back Tellis Redmon.
In a sense, Brewer is still playing high school football. After all, he’s the only ironman on the Gophers — something common on Brewer’s 34-man high school team, which won a state championship.
While most players who reach the college ranks decide to focus on one position, Brewer still shares a love for both sides of the ball.
On the season, Brewer has a pair of receptions and four tackles for the Gophers. Playing offense and defense suits Brewer just fine.
“Growing up I never came off the field, I never focused on one position,” Brewer said.
Today, players like Brewer are a rarity. Minnesota coach Glen Mason said a mix of better conditioned players and a faster paced game have contributed to the demise of the ironman.
“The old days of playing both ways…they’re done,” Mason said.
Although Brewer hasn’t been on the field every down for Minnesota this season, Mason likes the attitude Brewer brings to the team.
“Jack is kind of a jack of all trades. He’s played offense and he’s played defense here,” Mason said. “He’s not a burner, he is more of a possession type receiver, but he’s a tough guy. He likes football and he’s a contact player.”
The toughness Brewer brings to the field comes from playing football in a state where the sport comes before any thing else; much like hockey in Minnesota.
“Texas football is Texas football, there is nothing that compares to it,” Brewer said. “People live and die for it. You can be undersized or underweight, but people have big hearts in Texas when they ball. They come at it, they bring it to you; it’s how they play.”
The Texas-sized heart gives Brewer his toughness, but it didn’t come to Minnesota right out of high school though.
Brewer first attended SMU — with current Gophers defensive end Karon Riley — for a year, leading the team in receiving yards with 352, before the two transferred to Minnesota.
Brewer, who had a strong but unhappy freshman year at SMU, credits defensive coordinator David Gibbs for encouraging him to leave the football-crazy state of Texas for the upper Midwest.
Now, Brewer gets to head back with the Gophers to face a Baylor team that went 0-8 in the Big 12 last season.
Brewer’s hoping to show his ability as a two-way player to his contingent of fans.
“I’ve never preferred one or the other,” Brewer. “Either side they want me to play I will. I just want to be on the field.”
John R. Carter covers football and comments at [email protected]