Mineral Wells Index
By CLINT FOSTER
For the second time in head coach and athletics director Bryan Horton's tenure at Community Christian School in Mineral Wells, one of his student athletes has committed to play football at the college level.
On Tuesday afternoon, surrounded by family and friends, CCS standout Sammy Brazeal inked his letter of intent to play football for the NAIA's Ottawa University in Kansas.
Unlike other schools that pursued the six-man giant, Ottawa offered Brazeal something he simply could not refuse: a full scholarship. Now, once Brazeal has faxed his signature, he will be the newest member of a Braves squad that is ranked No. 14 in the nation heading into the 2014 NAIA season.
"I'm definitely really pumped up about it," Brazeal said of his signing. "Playing college football has been my dream since I was probably about 9 years old. My coach and my dad told me after my first season of peewee football that I needed to stick with it and I had potential for college football. I never thought that was possible, but it's been my dream and to be able to accomplish it is really cool."
Playing six-man football in high school, Brazeal's combination of speed and size allowed him to fill multiple roles for the Warriors. He played everything from a lead blocker and pass rusher to a Jerome Bettis-esque, bulldozing ball carrier.
But it appears his ball-carrying days are over, as Brazeal said Ottawa head coach Kent Kessinger plans to try him at offensive line and defensive tackle, with defensive tackle being Brazeal's preferred position.
It's a role Horton believes his former player will fill nicely.
"You're talking about a kid that doesn't really fit in a traditional six-man mold, but yet with his athleticism and what he can do with the football, I think the coaches just took a look at his film and saw this kid's an athlete," he said. "This is a 6-foot-4, 300-pound ballerina we've got here.
"Since day one, this kid was an exceptional, natural pass blocker. Obviously there are some technique things we don't stress in six-man, but with that said, football is football. Run blocking is where he really excels.
"As far as the defensive side of the ball, I think he'll get a chance to do some things there. The skills are the same, but the boys he's going up against will be a little bit bigger. I think he's going to handle that just fine. Anything you throw at him, he learns quick and does it well.
"Some focused weight room time for him is going to make all the difference in the world."
Brazeal was recruited by multiple schools throughout the process, saying it seemed like he had six colleges calling him every other hour. For a while, he said, it seemed like he would never figure out where he was supposed to go. But he said when he turned to God, everything fell into place.
"I was praying with God a lot that He would just make it obvious where He wanted me to go," Ottawa had already offered me a partial scholarship and I had told them I didn't think it was going to happen because their tuition was too expensive. But [Kessinger] called me up again and said, 'Well, we've got something good for you.'"
What Kessinger had was the Arrowhead Scholarship, which would completely cover for years of school. It's reserved for special circumstances, and Brazeal fit the bill.
"I was like, 'Well, God, I guess that's a 'yes' from you,'" Brazeal said of when he heard the news. "It took everything in me not to shout 'yes' as soon as they offered me the scholarship. It was pretty exciting."
Although they hate to see their son move so far away, where it will be hard to catch all of his games, Brazeal's parents, Zip and Sherri, said they, too, believe God's hand was on the entire situation.
"It was God's doing," Sherri Brazeal said of her son's signing. "All of the circumstances were purposed by Him and we're OK with that. We wish they were closer, but everything that's happened with the scholarship, we know He's in charge."
The Brazeals, who met at Abilene Christian University, said they are still paying off student loans, so the fact that their son was able to get a full ride to college was nothing short of fantastic.
"We're more than proud," Sherri said. "We're excited, blessed, very thankful."
Sammy said he plans to major in education with the hopes of becoming a high school teacher and coach some day.
"I want to be able to do what [Horton] was able to do for me and make an influence on teenagers' lives," he said. "That's just something that made a big impact on me and I'd like to do in the future. Teaching is a passion of mine."
As for Sammy's cousin and CCS teammate Isaiah, he has decided to close the book on his football career, despite being used as a bargaining chip in Sammy's recruitment by many schools that wanted both of the talented cousins.
Isaiah plans to attend the University of North Texas on a full academic scholarship. He said he is considering walking on to the basketball team while there, as the Mean Green of the hardwood have shown significant interest in him playing.