The Beat in Blacksburg: Q&A with Michael Brewer
He grew up a football junkie in the Lone Star State, became a member of the Hokies after a transfer and has played the last two seasons for one of the most beloved figures in college football. Virginia Tech redshirt senior quarterback Michael Brewer, it's safe to say, doesn't lack for gridiron memories.
The Hokies (5–5) defeated Georgia Tech 23–21 on Thursday night to get one step closer to bowl eligibility, which would send coach Frank Beamer out on a high note as he prepares for retirement. Brewer, who went 15 of 29 passing for 178 yards with a touchdown and an interception against the Yellow Jackets, caught up with Campus Rush to talk about his legendary coach, the importance of the NCAA's graduate transfer rule and why he had to be a quarterback.
Campus Rush: You grew up in Texas, where football is king. What was the biggest culture shock you experienced after transferring to Virginia Tech in 2014?
Michael Brewer: The first week, I didn't see anybody wearing any cowboy boots! I'm always wearing them. I showed up, didn't see anybody wearing them and thought, "Hmm, what's going on here?"
CR: Your family has a long history with the University of Texas, as your father, grandfather and uncle all played quarterback there. I'm guessing that when you were a little kid, you were a Longhorns fan. Do you still have any Texas gear hidden away in your closet? Do you root for the school from a distance?
MB: [laughs] Not really. I had an opportunity out of high school to go there and didn't really feel like it was the best fit. I guess I split ties with the University of Texas back when I was a senior in high school.
CR: You started your college football career back at Texas Tech in 2011. Now, finally, it's about to come to a close. To you, what makes the sport so special, especially when compared with the NFL?
MB: For one thing, people don't realize how hard it is to be a college football player. Especially being a student-athlete, the time you have to invest into both [roles], everything it demands mentally and physically. At the next level you don't have to deal with much outside of football. It takes a lot to get it done at this level and be successful. I think that's why it's so rewarding, and something you can celebrate with your teammates. It's more of a family atmosphere in college.
CR: You're about to get your master's degree from Virginia Tech, and you already have your bachelor's degree from Texas Tech. That's because you took advantage of the NCAA's grad transfer rule in 2014. Last off-season, some coaches were grumbling about how the rule is being abused and needs to be reevaluated. What would your response to those coaches be?
MB: What's the difference between a coach leaving and going to a different school in the conference, but a player who graduates who can't go wherever he wants? I don't see a whole lot of difference. I think it's a good rule. I think if you've put your time in, got your degree and did the things you're supposed to do on and off the field and haven't had any issues, you should be able to go anywhere you want.
Matt Gentry/The Roanoke Times/AP
CR: Were you surprised when Frank Beamer announced earlier this month that he would step down at the end of the season? What was the reaction in the locker room?
MB: Coach Beamer's been doing this for a very long time. You kinda had an idea it might happen within the next two or three years. But for it to happen right now, I don't think anybody saw that coming. It was obviously a pretty big shock.
For me personally, growing up in Texas, pretty far removed from the program, any time I would hear about Virginia Tech, it was always "Coach Beamer …" Virginia Tech is Frank Beamer. It's sad to see his great career come to an end, but at the same time I've really been proud of the way the team's handled it. We really want to send coach Beamer out on a high note, because that's what he deserves.
CR: Being an iconic coach in one of the most popular sports in the country, he has been in the spotlight for a long time. What's something most fans don't know about Beamer?
MB: After we win, one of his favorite things to do in the locker room is dance. I don't know you've ever seen any of those videos, but look them up.
CR: Is he a good dancer? What's his genre of choice?
MB: I'd say so, he's a pretty good dancer. He mixes it up. He'll tilt his hat sideways, lean his shoulders back … you never know what you're gonna get.
CR: Do you have a favorite highlight with Beamer? Or a lesson he taught that you'll never forget?
MB: When I came to visit Virginia Tech, I ended up committing. I remember sitting down in coach Beamer's office, my dad and I and coach [Scot] Loeffler, the offensive coordinator. Coach Beamer's sitting behind his desk, we were talking and at the end of our meeting I told him, "Coach, this is where I want to be. I wanna commit to y'all and come play here for two years." He shot right out of his chair, came over and gave me a big hug. I'd known the guy for an hour. He told me, "We're gonna take great care of you, we're happy you're here, couldn't be more excited."
I think that's when I knew I made the right decision, because of the family atmosphere he brings. He teaches everybody how to do things on and off the field. That's why he's been so successful. It was pretty cool.
CR: That's an awesome memory. What's your first memory of playing quarterback?
MB: I'd probably have to go back to about the third grade, in Lake Travis, Texas, playing Pop Warner ball there. It was the first game of the year and I was actually playing running back. They pitched the ball to me, we ran a halfback pass and I threw it for a touchdown. I was like, "Yeah, I want to play quarterback now."
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CR: That's funny. I was looking through some notes and saw you caught two passes last year. Have you ever thought about playing another position? Are you an All-America receiver just waiting for your chance?
MB: Actually, when I was a sophomore in high school, I was the backup quarterback and I played receiver as well. I had a couple catches, scored a couple of touchdowns. But after that I realized there is way too much running and blocking involved with that, so I wanted to stick to throwing the football.
CR: I read that you played against Johnny Manziel's team in high school one time. What do you remember about him? Did you walk away from that game thinking, "I've just watched a future Heisman Trophy winner?"
MB: Johnny was definitely a very good player in high school. He was doing the same things he was doing at Texas A&M—running around, making plays with his feet. I think we won that game 49–42. It was a shootout, I remember that. [Editor's note: Lake Travis High beat Tivy High 48–42 on Nov. 19, 2010.]
CR: You've dealt with your share of injuries the last few years. Did you ever feel like the universe was trying to push you out of the game, or tell you it was time for something else?
MB: It might be, but I'm not letting it!
CR: A true competitor. So, it's almost Thanksgiving. Across the country, little kids will reenact the first Thanksgiving. Did you ever participate in that play in elementary school? What role did you play? Or what role were you born to play?
MB: I've never done it, but I'm probably a pilgrim. I could see myself being a pilgrim. I like to discover new things. I'm an adventurer of sorts.
CR: What's your favorite Thanksgiving dish?
MB: I like a lot of the sides. My mom makes pretty good hash-brown casserole.
CR: Solid choice. I know you guys are on a mission to get College GameDay out to Blacksburg for Beamer's final home game, against North Carolina on Nov. 21. What's your personal pitch to ESPN for why the show needs to come out?
MB: Well, I don't think College GameDay would be what it is today without coach Beamer and Virginia Tech. I think it was Chris Fowler, not too long ago, who said College GameDay owed Frank Beamer a debt. I think it's time to pay that debt.