Enter QB Brett Weyman, 6' 3" 225 lb. 4.6/40. 330 bench. 31" vertical jump, who looks more like a muscular pro prospect, than a high school kid. After considering a host of schools, Weyman today, declared his intentions to enter UT, and become a preferred walk-on to their football program this fall. It may sound innocent enough, but his announcement was actually the culmination of a 6 week contest, among major southern football powers, to see who could entice him into their program.
Before, committing to the Vols, Weyman, a highly recruited player on a national level, became perhaps the most sought after preferred walk-on in college football, among programs who had an 11th hour need for a quarterback. A physical specimen, by any measure, Weyman passes the eyeball test for sure. Yeah, but he's just a walk-on you say? Forget about it, you say, how can a mere walk-on become the man, in our vaunted program? The answer Vol coaches are hoping for, is, like Kelley Washington, Brett Weyman is no ordinary walk-on.
Just before Brett Weyman's visit to UT several weeks ago, the Knoxville News set the stage for his visit with a Sunday feature article entitled, "A hidden jewel for Vols? In this article they posed the question, "Will Tennessee's next great QB come gift wrapped as a walk-on? " It seems strange that the Vol's most respected local newspaper would give an ordinary walk-on prospect such play, which also included a large color photo of the QB who hails from Charleston, SC. Why? Is it, perhaps, because Brett Weyman is no ordinary walk-on?
If you listen to the accolades of coaches, writers, and the line up of respected recruiting experts, who have seen Weyman in action, or have reviewed his film, you might become convinced that the Tennessee coaching staff may have found their man.
"Weyman is pure athlete, with the body of Farve, and the release of Elway," writes Chris Poole, Midwest Recruiting. "Weyman ran the fastest pro shuttle--a 4.12--for all pro style QB's at the Nike Camps this year, " Nike Camp records. "Brett has perfect mechanics, and uncanny accuracy, " says Jerry Nettles famed SC QB guru. "Brett is very impressive. He can make all the throws. He is definitely a high D-1 prospect," writes Nike Camp Director, Greg Biggins. "Brett Weyman has a rocket arm. He is the best athlete among all national pro style prospects. He has made my All-American team as the number ten overall QB in the nation, " says Max Emfinger.
Indeed?, you ask, So how could a kid with so much positive buzz, so much reported talent, slip through the recruiting cracks? Regardless of his size, speed, strength, and arm, why should we believe, a kid without a lot of major offers, could be the solution in Knoxville? Things just don't add up--or do they?
According to his former coaches, things just might add up quite nicely for the Vols when Weyman reports this summer. "The Vols are getting a real prospect who can come in and compete right away, " says Rob Anderson, who coached Brett at Avon Old Farms School in Connecticut. "I think it is unbelievable that Tennessee is wide open at quarterback next year , and I also think it is unbelievable that a prospect like Brett is still available, this year. This is a marriage made in heaven."
When asked about Weyman's talent factor, Anderson said, " Brett is the real thing, he has the complete package of skills. He's smart, mature, quick, and most importantly, he has a big time D-1 arm. He learns extremely fast. He is definitely capable of competing for the starting job next spring." And Anderson should be able to recognize D-1 quarterback talent. His son, RJ Anderson was the starting QB at Syracuse, until he got hurt last season.
Another expert observer is Coach Jerry Nettles, of Darlington, SC, who is one of the premier private QB handlers and developers in the south. Nettles said. " Brett throws very strong. He can knock you down with the ball. He throws a deep out the way it should be thrown. That is always the test--the route that separates the men from the boys.
He has power and he has touch. Additionally, he sees very well and makes excellent decisions. There is no doubt, Brett is a top player. I have told everybody you have to throw the recruiting book out the window when it comes to him, he's just unique," Nettles said.
Let's listen to Max Emfinger, who, by now, has staked his reputation on his support of Weyman as a top prospect. Emfinger said, "The Vol fans just got their dream prospect, they just don't know it yet. And they probably will resist this notion for a while, because he did not come neatly packaged as a ‘Parade All-American' with 50 offers. But wait ‘till they see him throw." Emfinger said.
Emfinger justified his praise of Weyman. He said, "I can't blame anyone for doubting the hype around this kid. And I know I have led the charge. But remember, my job is to find talent, I have been doing this for 25 years. And I want to tell the Vol nation one very important thing. You do not judge talent by offers. You judge talent by all the tangible and intangible things that make up an athlete. If Vol fans only judged talent by offers, Drew Brees could have never played at Tennessee, ‘cause he did not have early offers, then he only got one. . Kliff Kingsbury could have never become a Vol, because he only got one offer, at the last minute. And then there is the fabled Tennessee Vol, Kelley Washington--in hindsight, were his lack of offers, a true indicator of his talent?
"The problem with college recruiting is that we all have tunnel vision. We lock on to players early. And they are the ones who get promoted into all world players. There are a lot of players out there like Brett Weyman--super players--who have not received offers for one recruiting reason or another. The sad fact of our business is, if you do not have a big high school program that you are coming out of--it is an uphill battle for a player and his family. Why do you think Rich Gannon went to Delaware? Or Steve McNair went to Alcorn State? And how many, of these all world high school players have we seen, that fall on their face, when they get to college. I won't name any here, but believe me, we all know plenty exist. And some of them were on my lists. Offers are just one factor, to judge a player, but at the end of the day, talent is the only factor that should count." Emfinger concluded.
According to Emfinger, the only reason Weyman did not get a number of high D-1 offers, is that he transferred to three boarding schools in three years, and he played on two different football teams, in two different states, within that period. Emfinger said Weyman was, " a player on the run, searching for playing time and higher levels of competition, as he improved each year. Playing, without a stable high school regional recruiting base, or a showcase spread offense, Weyman was never able to manufacture stats, nor get on any recruiting radar screens early enough to participate in the normal recruiting process," Emfinger concluded.
Brett's dad, Grant Weyman, a former scholarship player at Auburn now a real estate developer in Charleston, says they are very thankful to be at Tennessee with a preferred walk-on deal. He said, "Brett has had only 173 career throws. My god, that is only 3 games for a Kyle Wright, or a Chris Leak. Sure he did great with those throws, but kids who have played for three years, and have attempted 600 throws a year, in spread offenses, really deserve to get the nod. If Brett had been fortunate enough to have been in one of those kind of offenses, and had a stable high school career, it would be different. I can not blame coaches for placing these kids ahead of Brett on their recruiting boards. They deserve to be there. So. really, when you consider all of this, we think we belong right where we are, and we are thankful to be here," Weyman said.
When the Weyman's decided to pursue a preferred walk-on, they were unsure about it. Weyman said, "I did not know what a preferred walk-on was. I thought it was like ‘Rudy,' or something. But the more I found out about it, the more I liked it, " Weyman said.
Weyman said, "If you take money out of the equation, and if you have talent, a preferred walk-on is a very good deal, because you get to choose instead of being chosen-- so it gives you control over your destiny, it takes the uncertainty out of the recruiting process. It is just a business like way of looking at things. You trade a year or so of money, for the opportunity to pick your program. " Weyman said.
Weyman said, "We had a chance to pick a couple of schools, in this arrangement, who had a strong need for a quarterback. But still, I went into this thing looking for red flags. ‘When we visit these schools, and I get the feeling their is no respect, ‘ I told Brett, ‘Were outta there.' "
On March 6th the Weyman's traveled to Tennessee to discuss a preferred walk-on deal. He said, "Coach Fulmer could not have paid more attention to Brett. And I pushed Coach Randy Sanders hard. I asked him point blank, do you like his arm strength? Will you give him a fair shot? Do you really want him? Randy looked me in the eye and said yes. Then he turned to Brett and said, ‘Brett, I would like to coach you.' I think Randy and Coach Fulmer were very straight forward. They were genuine. It was a good feeling. Then later that day, when I saw Coach Fulmer walk out of the stadium, with his arm around Brett, a very warm feeling came over me.
I thought to myself, ‘it has been a long and hard road, but finally someone has given this boy respect.' And to think it is one of America's greatest college coaches. Well, let's just say it touched me deeply," Weyman said.
Weyman admitted there were a lot of heartaches on the two year recruiting trail. "Even with Brett's lack of experience, we thought his size, frame, maturity, and superior athleticism would become the equalizer. We thought it would be like the pros, where in the end, they draft the best athlete. Truthfully, there are a lot of highschool QB's out there, who are just not athletic. It was a little hard to understand how some of these kids could get the nod over an athlete like Brett. But after watching how Ken Dorsey bombed recently in the pro combines, a friend reminded me, college coaches do not have the same expectations, athletically, for highschool QB's. They go for showcase players, stats, and names who have been built up through high profile high school programs, where coaching relationships are intact. We didn't have any of this," Weyman said.
To get through the disappointments of recruiting, Weyman said, "We have had a saying, ‘It's not how you get there, its that you get there ." We are just grateful that Brett will have a chance to compete at a quality school, like Tennessee. We told Coach Fulmer, a scholarship is not the objective. Playing is the objective. Coach Fulmer offered us no guarantees. But he did offer Brett a place at the Vol table. In the end, Brett's performance will have to speak for itself, and a scholarship will come as a reward of that performance. This preferred walk-on arrangement has to be taken with a lot of trust. After meeting Coach Fulmer, and speaking as a father, I will tell you that, this is the kind of man I feel comfortable entrusting my son to, " the elder Weyman said.
Weyman said Tennessee, "Just felt right." He said, "Coach Fulmer drove Brett and I back to his office in his car. Randy was seating in the back with Brett. It had been cold that first day of spring practice, so we all remained quiet for a minute, a little numb from the cold. Then, I thanked them for the day and for sharing so much time with us--which included Randy inviting Brett to the quarterback meetings earlier that day, and the team meeting. Coach Fulmer, shook his head positively and concluded, ‘there was not a greater opportunity for a quarterback'. Randy turned to Brett and nodded assuredly to him. We all starred contemplatively, as the car pulled up to his office at the Vol's indoor sports complex. I think in that moment we all had come to the conclusion, perhaps fate had brought us together, this day. While I shook Coach Fulmer's hand and said goodbye, Randy, was a few feet away, saying something to Brett. I asked Brett later, "So what did coach say to you, " Brett said smiling, it's private dad, but don't worry it was good."
Max Emfinger said, "I think all Vol fans are very frustrated with what happened up there with their QB recruiting situation. But there is one answer to this. Have faith in the Tennessee coaching staff. The last thing these guys want to do is waste their time with a prospect who takes up space. In their situation, they just can not afford to have someone there who they do not believe in, who they do not think could be the answer. I know for a fact, also, that Coach Fulmer would not let Brett Weyman come in, if he did not have a feeling that this would be good for the team and good for Brett, as well. He just would not do that to the Weyman family. They had too many other options, and I am sure Coach Fulmer would not want to impede those opportunities for Brett, if he was not serious about Brett's ability to succeed at Tennessee."
So, I think the Vol fans should take their lead from the coaches," Emfinger said. "Let this kid do his thing. Once you see this kid throw, you'll know why I am so high on him. He's a gift for the Vols, and I would, therefore give him a lot of respect. Remember, he is betting on himself. He gave up some sure things to walk-on. From where I come from, a guy who is taking all the risk, and is willing to bet on his own performance without any guarantees, is the kind of guy who I want out there on Saturdays, under center. Talk about confidence. He's been an--against all odds--kind of kid from the start, and he has no fear. I think that tells you something about his character. Those are the tangibles you got to look at in this business. It is the thing that separates the winners from the wanabees," Emfinger concluded.
Surely, Max is right about one thing. Everyone respects a player who puts it all on the line. And in this respect, that is exactly what a walk-on does. There are many different kinds of walk-ons. At the top is a "preferred walk-on." This is a kid who is as good as a scholarship level athlete, who for some reason does not have a scholarship. He has equal status on the team with scholarship athletes, he lives in the athletic dorm, he eats at the same table, he receives the same academic support, the only difference is that he pays his own way until he receives his scholarship. And in most cases, a preferred walk-on earns a scholarship, if he earns a place on the depth chart. This is reportedly the deal Brett Weyman has.
So what kind of quarterback can the Vols expect Brett Weyman to be. Here's what Jerry Nettles says. " I honestly think Brett can be a Chris Wenke type at Tennessee. It sounds like he is going in at the right time. It is great that he has a senior QB like Casey Clausen as a role model. Give him a year to get acclimated, and I think he can compete with anyone."
In a telephone interview with Brett Weyman, he commented on his shot at Tennessee. "It has been quite a ride. I have traveled a lot and I have seen and heard a lot. I am not going to talk about what I can do. I will let my performance speak for itself. Tennessee is an awesome place. The coaches there, looked me in the eye and told me I would have a fair shot. That's all I want. I am psyched and I am really pumped about it. I believe in myself. I feel I can compete with anyone, anywhere, " Weyman said.
Weyman said there was one turning point in the trip that overwhelmed him. He said, "When I walked into that stadium, I said to myself, yeah, this is what I want."
So Vol fans may have their man. It may not be as celebrated as they had hoped. It may not be as vaunted as they had expected. But when Brett Weyman walks-on, this summer, even though he may be reluctant to ‘talk the talk,' there's a lot of people who think he just might be good enough to, ‘walk the walk.'
Brett Weyman was 17 when he decided to play football. He was a Junior in high school. His eligibility clock was therefore ticking--he had one year left. Somehow he had to buy time. His only opportunity, was to enter private schools, and play where the four year rule would not be in effect. So, a plan was devised. It called for him to repeat his junior year, at Avon Old Farms School in Connecticut and enter their football program as a quarterback, who had never played the game before.
In September of 2001 Weyman, in his first game ever--Weyman threw for 255 yards and two Td's--in the first half. Weyman had a sensational junior year, even with limited attempts, on a running team. In just 8 games, and 103 attempts, Weyman produced 1520 yards, 13 Td's and 5 ints, with a 56% completion rate. And, most importantly, he got the ball downfield. Weyman averaged an astounding, 26 yards per completion.This fast start, with solid results, combined with his outstanding physical stats, opened the D-1 prospect door.
Brett's dad , Grant Weyman, a former scholarship player at Auburn, produced a highlight film of Brett's junior year which did not get out until late April of his rising senior year. Weyman said, "We were really novices about the recruiting process. I did not realize film should have been out earlier, so we could get on lists. Just by accident, someone told me to send the film to Rivals and Max Emfinger, of Insiders.com. All of a sudden, there were major articles on Brett on the Internet. We thought that we were made after that. Little did we know, that is not how it works," Weyman said.
Weyman said, "Brett got over 100 letters from schools, and I must admit , it made him feel very good. But as we got into May, I saw kids were already committing to schools. Suddenly I realized we were being eliminated systematically. A quarterback is the hardest position to place. And when a spot is gone, it is gone. Most schools only take one, two at best. This worried me. So I started checking around. I called one of the schools Brett had gotten a letter from, NC State. The coach was really nice. He said , ‘Hey we hear Brett is a heck of a prospect, but we have filled our commitments at QB.' This is when, I realized we were in a time war. And although Brett was getting a lot of publicity and attention, no one seemed to be really focused on him. I knew we had to do something fast."
About that time, Brett received an invitation to the Nike Camps. Grant Weyman said, at first they scheduled Brett to the Nike Camp at the University of Georgia, which was close to home. But then things changed. Weyman said, "I had sent Brett's film to Chris Poole of Midwest Recruiting. He wrote an article about Brett that was very flattering. The article said Brett should be a consideration as an "Elite 11" QB prospect. I had never heard of the "Elite 11," but I sure wanted to find out about it. I thought maybe this could be the vehicle that could help Brett. "
Weyman said people advised him to get Brett as much physical exposure as possible. So a big decision was made. The Weyman family canceled the Nike Camp at Athens, GA and scheduled the Stanford Camp at Palo Alto, CA. which was the biggest Nike camp, and which also would host 100 D-1 coaches, who would be in attendance.
On May 16th, two days before the camp, Brett and his Charleston trainer, Stacy Dove, trainer of NFL athletes Travis Jervey and Robert Porcher, flew 3000 miles out to San Francisco and drove to Palo Alto. With one day rest, Brett competed at the camp. Stacey Dove, witnessed Brett's performance.
Dove said, "Brett kicked butt. He ran the fastest, and threw the best, the media was all over him out there. After his terrific performance with little rest and in a different time zone, I felt Brett proved he was more than an equal among these other top rated kids. And that's the nice way of saying it. The truth is, Brett was a man among boys out there, " Dove said.
Others agreed. One California observer was prep writer Mike Eubanks, who also edits The Bootleg.com, the recruiting website for the Stanford Cardinals. Eubanks wrote, "At a camp loaded with stars, including Kyle Wright and Dennis Dixson, Brett stood out above all other QB's at the Stanford...with his upper body strength, whipping the ball much harder with more accuracy... and his speed was the envy of the others." Eubanks reported.
In the article, Eubanks said he approached Brett's situation with doubts, because he felt Max Emfinger's descriptions of Weyman as, "The next John Elway and the Recruiting discovery of the year, " in USAToday.com, were a little too effusive and over the top. But then Eubanks wrote, "I fortunately had the chance to see Brett Weyman with my own eyes...and form my own opinion with my own eyes. ...He has a rocket arm and over all strength and athleticism that grabbed my attention... Dennis Dixson of San Leandro CA had the reputation for the strongest arm out west, but Weyman threw stronger in my observations, " Eubanks said.
Grant Weyman said, "Brett approached the Stanford Nike Camp like a shoot out. In his mind he was going up against the number one QB in the nation, Kyle Wright, for a spot on the "Elite 11." After his performance out there, a lot of people were surprised that Bob Johnson passed on him. In fact the student sports article that came out on the Internet was couched, something like, ‘Kyle Wright had a bad day.' Since then, I have been schooled on the west coast vs. east coast QB politics. But I have to admit, I still sting over that Nike Camp experience," Weyman said.
Luckily, the University of Miami quarterback coach was at the camp and Miami began recruiting Brett along with Stanford and UCLA. By mid summer Brett was getting 10 calls a day. But still, commitments were being made at an alarming rate. And most of them were coming from regional high school recruiting bases. Brett was indeed a national recruit, but it was almost meaningless. I started to feel, almost like Brett was a , "man without a country." He said, "Brett was well known, but it was not enough. The funny thing is, everybody assumed Brett had committed somewhere else," Weyman concluded.
But there was one more move that was left, summer camps. Weyman said, "This is where we made another mistake. Both South Carolina and Maryland had visited Brett at his school in May, along with five or six others schools, and most of the coaches who were calling, were asking Brett to come to their camp--and there were 20 or thirty of those. In the end, Brett decided to go to only two--both Maryland and South Carolina, for three days each. By putting all his eggs in one basket, Brett lost a lot of direct exposure opportunities. In hind sight, he should have gone to Purdue, Miami, Boston College, and Georgia as well--a day at each place. I'm afraid we snubbed our noses at a few good opportunities back then," Weyman said.
Tiring of recruiting strategies, and with the fall of Brett's senior season growing near, the Weyman's had yet another dilemma. Brett's team at Avon Old Farms School, Avon, CT. was hardly located in a D-1 recruiting hotbed. Therefore, yet another move was contemplated. Brett felt he needed a bigger fish bowl. But where? Brett's QB coach, Jerry Nettles, suggested that football legendary Fork Union Military Academy might be the spot. Nettles said, "I told Grant Weyman, that it was my opinion, that if Brett threw for 800 yards at Fork Union, against that level of competition, it would be more valuable to Brett, than 2000 at Avon, " Nettles said.
Grant Weyman's call to Fork Union was quickly returned by famed head football coach John Shuman. "I had read about Brett. In fact everytime we cut a receiver from a try-out, I recommended Avon. I told them, that's where the top QB in the East is playing, maybe you can get on there, " Coach Shuman said.
On July 15th, Weyman tried out and instantly made the college showcase team at Fork Union Military Academy, a team who plays college jayvees, like Va. Tech, UVA and others. Fork Union also gave Brett a healthy scholarship. Weyman who was the only high school undergraduate on the team, had a stellar year. But, now more confusion emerged. Because of Fork Union's unique eligibility status and college schedule, a lot of coaches thought Weyman now was playing JUCO ball, and never categorized him correctly as a true high school senior. Thus, the only high school kid in America who played quarterback against college teams, never got recognition for playing at this level. Then, things got worse.
Because Weyman was a new player with limited experience and limited stats--the Fork Union Film senior film would be critical. This was going to be the film, the Weyman's thought that would reshape Brett's recruiting picture. After all this was the legendary FUMA, the program that bred Vinny Testeverde, Eddie George, and over 50 NFL players. Surely, the Weyman family thought, they had crossed the rubicon. For example, this film would show how Brett threw against VA Tech, highlighted by the 42 yard TD pass that was a hot read off of a blitzing line backer. It would show him throwing against Hargrave Military, the nations best super prep team who had 24 players go on to D-1 schools this year. Moreover, at Hargrave, it would show Brett performing with USAToday's defensive player of the year, Amahd Brooks, hanging on his collar. Then there was his 80% completions against Montgomery Jr. College; his great game against the US Military All Stars. Because he was only a high school kid playing at this level--this would be it, the coup de grau'. But, again, it did not work out this way.
Brett had great, but limited stats at FUMA which featured nine running backs. He threw 73 times for 914 yards, completing 72 per cent, with 6 TD's and zero ints through 9 games. FUMA has a rule that everyone plays, so Brett rotated with 2 other QB's. But in the end, it was the quality of the competition and how he performed against it, that they hoped would translate through to recruiting coaches. But it didn't. Most coaches never got to see it.
There is nothing like film, and good film is a one way ticket into every offensive coordinator's conference room. But Brett's FUMA film got out piecemeal. And when it did, there was only one problem, you could not see it. Fork Union, it seems shoots in the old format of VHS, edit it once and it is like watching film with dirt on the lens--edit it twice and it is history. Becoming aware of this, Brett's dad contacted the schools FUMA had played and begged for their film. He edited it and finally, three days before signing day, Brett's good FUMA film got out. Along the way, Brett received one D-1 verbal offer early to UCON which he never considered, and a host of offers to lessor programs, but their focus remained on the high D-1 programs who annually compete for the national championship. So, now considering the situation, quality walk-on opportunities were what was left, and that is where they now focused.
But, according to Weyman, there had been many near miss D-1 offers that were intriguing, even with the bad film sent out earlier. Arizona's coach John Mackovic spoke to Grant Weyman two or three times. In, fact, an official visit was set up for the 16th of December. But a FUMA transcript problem held the trip up. By the time it was fixed, they had cooled. "Mackovic was in hot pursuit of Richard Kovalcheck and Brett felt it was just too far. He wanted to play in the south, "Weyman said. He said, "Besides, coach Les Koenning of Alabama had called a bunch of times and said Coach Fran had given him permission to travel to FUMA on the 10th of December. He said he wanted to look Brett in the eye, when he offered him. Then the world fell apart at ‘Bama, as we all know. We never heard from him again."
There were many situations like this. but the biggest problem was the JUCO confusion factor. A lot of people just did not understand the program at Fork Union and the fact that Brett, even though he was playing at a higher level, against college team Jayvees, JUCO teams, and even US Military teams, was still, just a high school senior. So the irony, was that this became a stigma, instead of the huge accomplishment it was.
"We are just glad it's over, now, said Grant Weyman. My advice to any father who finds themselves trying to buy eligibility like we did, is to consider communicating directly with 4 or 5 schools they are interested in, and letting them know the situation, immediately. Go to their camps. And send them film direct. You need to maintain a dialogue with these coaches. In short, you need to take control of the recruiting process communication. If your kid is not on their "A" list, it is going to be a mountain to climb. " Weyman said.
"In the end, you can only hope you can find a quality program like Tennessee." Weyman said. He said, "Everything that happened with them was bottom line and genuine. These are the kind of coaches you hope you will find. Everyone else, at other schools, were selling, or hyping the situation. You could tell when it was coming out of their mouths, they had said the same thing a 1000 times before to some other prospect. At Tennessee is was very personal. Very low key. They don't have to sell. I think when a program is big and established like Tennessee, you are in a very secure environment. When you are visiting a new program, everyone is selling ‘cause they can't back it up with years of winning, and performance, so they give you a lot of words, " Weyman said.
"If you are going to take a risk and spend your money as a preferred walk-on, you better believe in the people you are dealing with, " Weyman said. "At Tennessee, I knew after meeting coach Fulmer, that we were finally home." Weyman said.
So, after languishing in the valley of recruiting disappointment, Brett Weyman's journey ends on a mountain top. Somehow, this seems very fitting.