I took up my familiar place in the driver's seat of one of the little carts next to the area, not to glean any inside information, but to keep an eye on what they were doing to my friend.
For five years, ever since he arrived at University Park, Brandon has been a model student and a guy who I could just shoot the breeze with about Fresno (I had some central valley ties in my days in radio in Porterville, Tulare and Visalia) fishing in Mexico, some football, just stuff.
I had heard, we all had, about this unbelievable physical specimen of a kid coming out of Clovis West High. We saw that body on that young kid, and you just couldn't help but think, in this day and age of rampant use of substances to help make oneself bigger and stronger, that he was not "natural".
That is, until you talked to him. Quietly confident. Speaks eloquent English. Always interested in talking about class work and classes as much as football and life. Good looking cat. My eldest daughter has always expressed an interest in meeting him, after seeing his picture in the program. It's a meeting that has never happened, but I wish it would.
The fact that he has been oft injured did nothing to quell the talk about steroid usage…..after all, don't users usually see their bodies fall apart more easily, rapidly, and more often.
I don't believe it, never have. He can't be using. USC players are tested regulary, supposedly at random, yet, somehow, Hancock, to hear him tell of it, is more often than not singled out to be tested. What has happened to Brandon has been a combination of bad luck, bad timing, and being in "too great of shape" as if that's possible!
Listen, I watched the dude ride from here to Australia and back on a stationary bike one year. If he wants to join the Tour de France, all he has to do is add back wheels.
But I suggest he has other things on his mind. His career at SC is done if for no other reason than he can't find any more classes to take! For crying out loud, he's got his B.A. in Communications, and a minor in Business I think it is, and he's something like 6 units shy of his Masters in communications management. No ball room dancing , although I bet he can!
So he'll get his Masters degree, he will have surgery, rehab, and try to impress NFL scouts enough on pro day to take a late round flyer on him, or sign on as an undrafted free agent. If he fails that, he can try Canada, or the World League, or Arena League ball. If he can just get out there and play, and show them what he can do, and …..yes….stay healthy, he might make a good chunk of change as a pro. Goodness knows there are those at SC who will vouch for him as a player and as a man.
He could play, maybe. He could coach others trying to play, certainly. Maybe even at SC. More likely though, he will have a hugely successful career in business in whatever field he wants to enter. I would love to see him dabble in broadcasting (has one hell of a good voice, too!) but just for fun.
He was sitting on the trainer's table, and I went over to pat him on the shoulder. He had a look. A look of a guy who has felt this thing in his knee happen before. And the look of a guy who was just about at the end of his rope in terms of comebacks. He looked, for a rare time, despondent. He tried to hide it, but wore his heart on his sleeve. I read in Klein's column where he was crying when talking about it after he got the MRI results back. The results he knew he would get before they ever came. He had heard the pop in his ears he told me, when it happened.
I was nowhere near the only person at practice the following day who was bummed out. Bad for the Trojans? Sure. We lack a real pass catcher )as far as we know) out of the fullback spot that he and Kirtman gave us. Bad for the team, sure, they lost a captain type leader. Bad for the Brandon.
And hey, Brandon, I have this young lady I'd love you to meet, her name is Stephanie.