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Utah football: Ute senior offensive lineman Sam Brenner has heart

By Emily Radivoyevich

For the Deseret News

Published: Friday, Oct. 26 2012 4:59 p.m. MDT

Senior offensive lineman Sam Brenner is a second-year starter. He has not allowed a sack this season.

University of Utah Athletics

One characteristic that has consistently defined Sam Brenner is his unwavering dedication to whatever he chooses to take on in life.

To find out where that approach stems from, no need to look any further than the people who brought him into this world. Sam’s parents, Jim Brenner and Eileen Malik, are former collegiate athletes and members of the U.S. Marine Corps. Jim swam for the University of Buffalo, while Eileen played basketball for Cal State San Bernardino. From a young age, they raised their only son with a sense of discipline and structure and encouraged him to always give his best effort – qualities ideal for excelling in sports.

“They had a really big impact on how I grew up," Brenner said, talking about his parents’ influence. "My mom was really strict and I had a lot of structure and discipline at home. She was strict, but was always giving me enough room to have fun. My dad was always watching football, so I grew up wanting to play the game.”

With an excellent work ethic and an instilled passion for football, the Oceanside, Calif., native excelled during his high school career. Brenner earned first-team all-league recognition twice, as well as all-North County and all-CIF honors. He was also a two-time Most Valuable Offensive Lineman for Oceanside High School. As a senior, Brenner was voted second-team all-state and played in the 2007 California Bowl All-Star game.

Brenner’s success drew the attention of Utah’s coaching staff, and he signed with the Utes in 2008. After visiting Utah’s campus, Brenner soon began persuading teammate Jordan Wynn, who was a year younger, to come join him.

“I was [sitting out a year as a gray shirt] and hanging out with Jordan, having him over to my house to watch the Utah games and stuff,” Brenner explained. “I was always in his ear saying ‘Hey man, Utah is pretty good.’ Eventually, after awhile of me being around him, he de-committed [from Colorado] and came here.”

Brenner is quite satisfied with the influence he had on Wynn, who went on to earn the starting quarterback job late in his freshman year and threw for 4,637 yards and 33 touchdowns before he was forced to retire earlier this season due to injury.

“We came from the same place and he knew the same things that I was going through. It was really, really cool to go through this experience with him,” Brenner related.

Brenner says Wynn helped him through some adversity early in his Utah career, as he struggled with a broken foot during his freshman and sophomore years.

“I kept working, like our program teaches us,” Brenner said. “I just kept working and never gave up on myself, and knew that eventually things would work out for me.”

Brenner earned a spot on special teams and saw action in all 13 games in 2009. A year later, he played in 12 games as the offensive line’s top reserve and started at left tackle in the Las Vegas Bowl.

Brenner started 12 games at right guard and one game at tackle in 2011. However, during Utah’s regular-season finale against Colorado, Brenner endured a potential career-ending neck injury during the second half.

“That was really, really scary,” Brenner said with a sigh. “It was weird just being in the ambulance, and having to go to the hospital and everything just for something that you don’t really expect to have happen to you. You are just out there playing, and realizing that it could all be gone in a second like that was really frightening. I was scared and a little confused because I didn’t really know what was going on. That was just a bad experience, but the main thing I remember was being really mad about having to leave my team behind. Luckily, I was OK and was able to keep playing football.”

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