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Brand snapping for Utes

September 22, 2001|By ERIC GALVAN, Sports Writer

For about three months early this year, El Centro native Ryan Brand found himself working at Vons in El Centro as a courtesy clerk.

After playing at Mount San Antonio College in Walnut as a walk-on longsnapper, the 1998 Southwest High graduate found himself bagging groceries, collecting shopping carts and stocking shelves.

About three months into the job he realized his place is on the football field.

The 5-foot-11, 216-pounder was set to transfer to a four-year university. His choices: the University of Oregon and San Diego State University. Neither figured into his final decision and he ended up at the University of Utah.

"I was really close to going to SDSU. It looked like that's where I was going to end up, but I didn't," said Brand. "It just so happened that when I went to talk to (Mt. SAC) Coach (Bill) Fisk, he was talking to people at Utah about some players.

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"He asked them if they needed a longsnapper and they said yes. So it just worked out."

He didn't receive a scholarship from Utah, so he had to walk on. Just as he did at Mt. SAC, he earned the starting long-snapper job at Utah.

While it isn't the most glamorous of jobs on a football team, Brand takes pride in his job.

"You really don't get much credit as a longsnapper. There's really only four people that notice what you do: the holder, the punter, the kicker and the coach," said the 21-year-old Brand. "Coaches always say special teams win games … and it all starts with long snapping. So I can take some pride in what I'm doing."

No matter how much pride he takes in his job and no matter how important he is to special teams, he plays what many call the "thankless position."

"Nobody really notices you or pays attention to you when you go out there and do something right … when you just do your job," said Brand. "But when you mess up, then everybody blames you and then everybody knows your name. People just always expect you to be perfect."

Even though there is more pressure on him than people realize, he said he is content with his position on the team. It was through his time at the grocery store that he realized just how much football meant to him.

He said working there helped him appreciate the game more and helped him realize that playing football is something he would consider as a future career venture.

Like many college football players, Brand dreams of making it to the NFL. Brand said Utah head coach Ron McBride told him if he continues his consistency and working toward improving his game, he could have a future in the NFL.

For now, he will focus on longsnapping for Utah, an experience he relishes.

"All of this is just awesome. I realized that when I was at Vons that I missed putting on a helmet and putting on pads," said Brand. "Now that I'm playing here, I realize how much I love this.

"There's a lot of work that you have to put into this, but its worth it. Being out here, it just feels good when little kids come up and ask for autographs and asking me questions," Brand said. "And being part of the team, we're just like one huge family. I wouldn't give up any of this for the world."

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