Coast Guard defensive lineman Jack Brandt is a true family guy
New London — Jack Brandt's dad, John, is a former baseball captain at Yale University and former general manager of both the Camden Riversharks and Newark Bears of the independent Atlantic League, which meant that, at the ballpark, Jack and his younger brother Kevin had the coolest birthday parties among their friends.
Brandt's mother, Mary Clare, has battled breast cancer throughout this year, but never wavered in her strength.
"She was 100 percent herself," said Jack, a 6-foot-4, 230-pound junior defensive tackle for the Coast Guard Academy football team. "She's the kindest, yet most driven person you're ever going to meet. She always wants to do stuff for other people. ... My mom's the true athlete of the family. That's what my dad always says."
That's how Jack Brandt became, among other things, a family guy.
"We did everything together," Brandt said. "Disney World. We would come up to New England to see our family. ... My mom works at St. Joan of Arc (elementary school) as the marketing director. She volunteered there when I was in school there. She was the president of the PTA. She was a baseball coach. She coached my brother and I both.
"My mom and dad both, they taught me everything they know about sports. They instilled their love of sports in me."
Brandt, one of two down linemen in Coast Guard's new defensive formation, has 28 tackles overall for the Bears (3-2, 1-1) heading into Saturday's game against Springfield College and is second on the team with six tackles for a loss. He is tied for the team lead with three sacks.
Brandt is a two-sport athlete who pitches for the Coast Guard baseball team.
He is the one who, after breaking his leg during baseball season his senior year at Bishop Eustace Prep in Pennsauken, N.J., and finding out his admission to the Coast Guard Academy had been deferred, went to work with the football, basketball and baseball coaching staffs at his high school.
He gained a greater understanding of things, especially defense. He acquired a greater maturity.
"He's one of the guys you start talking about, you don't want to stop," Coast Guard coach Bill George said at Wednesday's weekly team media luncheon. "... He's a tremendous leader, a tremendous football player. He's made plays for three years.
"He's very mature, overcoming injuries, overcoming family illness. Some people don't have these challenges until much later in life. I bet you six or seven times this year, I forgot he's a second class (junior); I have it locked in my head he's a senior."
Brandt said his dream job was to be a Major League Baseball player. He used to get John to throw him three pitches or three ground balls every day before he left for work.
He credits reality setting in on his pro baseball prospects, as well as a recruiting pitch by George for changing his life. He said he never thought twice about abandoning plans to attend the academy, even though it took an extra year.
"It ended up being the best thing ever," Brandt said. "I had over a year to prepare rather than 27 days. ... It was great to give back (to the high school). I had a blast with it. I really loved coaching football."
Brandt suffered another injury last year, a broken finger which cost him the final six games of the season.
He remembers that his hand was still in a cast when his mom called him in January to tell him she had cancer. Mary Clare underwent surgery in March and followed with radiation treatments.
"It was hard being away from my family. We talked every night and I prayed for her," Brandt said. "My brother (now a freshman on the football team at Western New England) was home. He tore his ACL and he said the same thing as me with my injury, 'My knee doesn't matter to me anymore.'"
Brandt considers his teammates to be family members, too.
The Coast Guard defense, which went 10 straight quarters this season without allowing a touchdown, including a 13-0 shutout of Nichols on Sept. 16, is second in the NEWMAC and 22nd nationally in Division III, giving up just 12.8 points per game.
Brandt and quarterback Ethan Goldcamp, who is from Morgantown, W.Va., somehow became honorary members of a brotherhood of players from San Marino, Calif, including wide receiver Chip Crowley and his brother Patrick, a defensive back, and brothers Mark Wicke, a football linebacker, and Arthur Wicke, a member of the Bears tennis team.
"I love New England. The cold doesn't faze me," Brandt said. "I had to teach Chip Crowley how to get snow off a car last year."
"You wonder who's going to take it to the next level," George said of Brandt. "He's good because of his work ethic, his seriousness. He's a serious, 'yes sir', 'no sir' kid. You have expectations for everybody. He's exceeded expectations."
MOST VIEWED MEDIA
MOST DISCUSSED STORIES