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Posted 07 May 2001   For week ended May 04, 2001
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Sent on Mormon-News: 01May01

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 that."

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 I can."

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


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