Wednesday, September 5, 2018

5 Things You Ought to Know about Brandon Wimbush

For the first time, I traveled an all-female cohort of students to Wheeling, WV to take part in the Appalachia Institute's week-long service project. When we arrived to Wheeling Jesuit University, our HQ, we discovered we were meeting with another student group out of St. Peter's Prep. I turned to the girls and said "I know all of four things about this school. I know:
  1. St. Peter's is another Jesuit school, 
  2. They are in Jersey City, NJ and 
  3. Their school is all boys." 
They looked at me incredulously. The other teacher and I said it's good to come into service with expectations, but you should always be open to surprises. Amidst their excited and nervous laughter, one girl said: "What is the fourth thing you know?" I said, "well, I'll wait and ask them." Moments later, we met this group of approximately twelve young men from the Garden State. I turned to the one standing next to me and asked, Does Brandon Wimbush ever come back to campus? We talked for the next half hour.
For the second year in a row, Brandon Wimbush is the starting quarterback at the University of Notre Dame. A native of Teaneck, NJ, fans ought to know that he returns to his alma mater to visit his former football and baseball coaches, teachers and today's athletes. I think this is incredibly important for both a program, for current players and for the athlete him or herself. The current student-athletes ought to see what their community has shaped. They need to hear the stories from the past and what is going on now, at the next level. In that story and that spirit, here are four other things you ought to know about QB1 for the 2018 season, Brandon Wimbush.

2. Brandon Wimbush is a playmaker. 
In the article "What the Irish Learned" John Heisler, senior associates athletic director drew upon his 16 years as sports information director in writing a fitting summary of the first game of the season. He noted, "Notre Dame's second-year quarterback earned the game ball Saturday night — certainly not by accident given all the Irish contributors. It reflected his all-purpose effort as he answered all those interested in seeing how his 2018 version would compare to what Notre Dame fans viewed a year ago. One media member suggested to Kelly after the game that Wimbush maybe qualifies as the best Irish running back right now. Fair enough — yet Wimbush's most impressive trait Saturday likely was the way he maneuvered for the tough yards when they really mattered. A 22-yard run on third-and-18 comes to mind. There was a third-down conversion and another on fourth down (both runs) on Notre Dame's third TD drive. There was a third-and-six rushing conversion on the second Irish TD march. For one Saturday night, Wimbush mostly delivered what was required from one down to the next.
It's fair to say Notre Dame Nation knew this from the get-go. And I mean that literally. Wimbush played in his first game on September against UMass. On his very first possession, he ran the ball 58 yards into the end zone for a TD, adding yet another page into Notre Dame football history.

3. Wimbush has a presence.
I ran through the tunnel onto the field inside Notre Dame football stadium (I love writing that) and headed to my "team's" first station. As a first time attendee of the Kelly Cares' Foundation's annual fundraiser: Football 101, I knew that I would be grouped with other women to run through drills led by both the position players and their coaches. We started with the defensive line, where we were taught how to tackle and ground a player...I mean, tackling dummy. This drill requires a woman to swallow her pride, have fun and cheer for the girl who is up next. As I stood in line awaiting my turn, I couldn't but gaze up and throughout the stadium. I tried to imagine what a player must see and feel on game day.

I averted my gaze to the players on the field. Who did I recognize? Whom had I heard about? It is at this time that QB1 had come onto the field. He was high-fiving his teammates, he was talking to fans, there was something different about this athlete. He smiled, he stood very tall and was very confident. His presence was undeniable. "That's Brandon Wimbush" somebody said. With that persona and warm swagger, we already knew that.
When it came time to head to the quarterbacks' station, I could see Coach Tom Reis, Ian Book and a few other offensive players ready to help us throw the pigskin a little better—with a little more accuracy and zip. We were encouraged to throw the football into several targets and the guys had as much fun as we did when we converted the pass. Throughout this time, Wimbush was talking to fans, helping us out, posing for a whole lot of selfies and serving as a warm and welcoming face of the program.

Make no mistake about it, Brandon Wimbush has a presence—a positive one, a strong one. Granted this is what your quarterback should have and must have. He has it. I have a sense his teammates feel the same.

4. His biggest fan
Episode 4 of the Showtime Series "A Season With: Notre Dame Football" profiles the backup to the original backup quarterback at the start of the 2015 season. When Malik Zaire fractured his ankle in an early season game against Virginia, DeShone Kizer suddenly became QB1. The storyline of the season took an unexpected turn. Wimbush entered the spotlight. Once again, his presence speaks for itself as the audience sees him interacting with fans, Coach Kelly and his mom, Heather Wimbush. Ms. Wimbush tells the camera what isn't hard to see: she is his biggest fan.

In the article "Atlanta Home" Chip Towers writes "Heather Wimbush raised Brandon and his older Sean in areas of Teaneck and Hackensack, N.J., across the river from New York City, from the day they were born. But she has always dreamed of a better life for her two boys. While she graduated from Penn State and always had a good job as a labor and delivery nurse, it was always difficult to make ends meet as a single mother." Chip Towers speaks to her tenacity, personal drive and goals. I know it's cliche, but it's also not hard to see the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. AND that's a great fan to have in your corner. 

5. Student-Athlete
An administrator with the Archdiocese of San Francisco recently told me she would prefer that we use the term "scholar-athletes." The emphasis on "scholar" in lieu of "student" implies that said young people take their education seriously. A "scholar-athlete" aims for excellence both in the academic and athletic classroom. As noble as her quest may be, the truth of the matter is that not all of our students—athletes are not— are scholars. However, you have one in Brandon Wimbush.

The emphasis on scholarship started at home. Towers writes, "For Ms. Wimbush, it’s all about her youngest son getting a great education. She actually wanted Brandon to accept the scholarship offer he received from Stanford University, where he says they both met Georgia’s Jacob Eason and his father Tony at a camp. But Notre Dame and its top-ranked business school represented a good alternative." Today #7 is majoring in accountancy with a minor in studio art. His GPA is viable (I believe it's over 3.0 but can't find that source).

From Teaneck to South Bend, Wheeling to San Francisco, there's a lot to look forward to in the Notre Dame quarterback and the season ahead. And yet, I was humbly reminded while rewatching "A Season With Notre Dame Football" that the plan for any player and any team can change in an instant. So let's enjoy each TD, every game, and every win. As a friend said last Saturday—the first big day of the 2018 College Football season—"it feels like Christmas!" Indeed and we have a gift in the scholar-athlete, playmaker out of St. Peter's Prep, #7, Brandon Wimbush. Go Irish!

Photo Credits
Head set

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