By Kent Larsen
Missionary, U Michigan Choose Each Other, Sight Unseen
ANN ARBOR, MICHIGAN -- In a leap of faith by both Spencer Brinton and the
University of Michigan football coaches, Brinton is on the University of
Michigan campus starting classes today, less than a week after returning
from an LDS mission to Durban, South Africa. Brinton, who was San Diego
State's starting quarterback before leaving on his mission, had never seen
the Ann Arbor campus before, nor had he met the coaches. For their part,
they had never met Brinton, nor seen him play in person. But they are giving
him a chance to compete for a quarterback spot on the team.
The recruiting process in Brinton's case was quite unusual. Ranked third
among high school quarterbacks in the Pac-10 region, Brinton was highly
recruited out of High School and one of four quarterbacks sought by Ohio
State that year. But Ohio State only had two scholarships and had trouble
making a decision on who to choose. Late in the signing period the school
decided to offer the two scholarships to the two players that called first.
But Brinton was out of the house all day on the day they let him know about
the competition, and ended up calling in last.
Running out of options late in the signing period, Brinton decided to go
with SDSU, knowing that the school would give him the opportunity to play
quickly, allowing him to accelerate his college career and get to the NFL.
The opportunity to play did come quickly, when the school's starting
quarterback was injured halfway through Brinton's freshman year. Brinton
then started the final five games of the season, completing 72 of 162 passes
for 1.097 yards, six touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He also started the
first two games of the next season and performed better, completing 17 of 31
for 152 yards and two interceptions, before sprained ligaments in his thumb
put him out for the season.
The injury did more than just put him out for the season. It also led him to
reflect on his life and reevaluate his goals. He soon asked to be released
from his scholarship and put in his papers for a mission. Brinton says the
mission was great. Called to Durban, South Africa, he became enamored of the
Zulu people, with whom he worked the most. "It's a beautiful place --
nothing like you imagine," Brinton says of South Africa. "I love the place.
I miss it a lot already. They were the greatest people. It was the best
experience of my life, by far." It changed him as a person, he says, "You go
out and serve other people," he said. "You help others learn to live happy
lives, and you forget about your own needs. There is no greater joy than
As his mission wound down, his parents got involved in the recruiting
process. The University of Michigan brought them to Ann Arbor to meet the
coaches and staff and see the campus. But the coaches had little contact
with Brinton himself, and instead relied on research to make their decision
to sign him, "I talked to a number of people that I respect on the West
Coast, watched film of him extensively of his freshman year at San Diego
State, (and) I just like what I saw," said coach Lloyd Carr. "What I know is
he's got wonderful ability, he's a good student, he has good size and a good
arm. I like what I know about him." But Carr admits that signing Brinton is
a bit of a gamble, "Until I see him under fire, I can't tell you (much)."
Brinton, on the other hand, is taking his own leap of faith, knowing that
Michigan already has a starting quarterback, a backup and a third-string
player. "It's crazy," Brinton says. "It's probably the first time anybody
has been recruited this way to Michigan. I'm excited. I go from one side of
the world to the other."
Brinton decided on Michigan in spite of the competition for playing time, in
part because of the maturity he gained after his injury, "The real reason I
went to San Diego State was so I could play right away, get experience and
head off to the NFL, because those were my desires. I knew it wasn't a
big-time program, but I wanted to play. But when I was at San Diego State,
that's when I realized there's more than just playing football." He says he
simply took football too seriously before the injury and his mission, "It's
too short of a career and too short of a time to take things too seriously,
like a business. I want to have fun doing it. Before, I believe I took
football way too seriously. Now, I'm just going to enjoy it and do the best
His choice, he says, came down to reputation and inspiration, "I felt it was
a place that I should go," he said. "Deep down in my heart, I knew it was a
place I should go. There's something else that's different about Michigan.
There's the tradition, the aura of it, and I've read the history of it. . .
. There's history and there's tradition. You can't go wrong with Michigan."
U-M gets mystery man
Detroit MI News 1May01 S2
By Angelique S. Chengelis: Detroit News
Quarterback Brinton signed on even though he hadn't seen school