It wasn't your basic grocery checklist, but it was a map for his future.
Pasted on the wall, right above his bed, available to check morning or night, was the list. It was a to-do list that most 10-year olds couldn't even fathom.
Items expected to be found on a middle schooler's list could be to clean his room, cut the grass, take out the garbage. Maybe do a little homework, watch some TV or meet the guys in the alley for a game of football before dinner.
But Jack Brewer's list was more complex. His list was all-encompassing, one that would never have him being accused of tunnel vision. It was a list that was a focused organizational statement most adult professionals would covet.
"I've been doing that since I've been 10 years old," Brewer said. "Friends would come over and they were always asking me what I was doing. I'd tell them this was what I wanted to do, who I wanted to be."
Brewer's list became the recipe for his life. On it were — are — personal goals that included how he'd treat his family and how he'd always remain focused on his religion. Educational goals, athletic goals, business goals — practically every facet of his life was — is — covered on the list.
His list is full of eraser marks, smudges from wear and tear, with items crossed out or tweaked as he walks down his life's path. But thanks to that very list he started more than a decade ago, Brewer can never be accused of failing to plan or prepare.
"That's the kind of guy I am," said Brewer, a safety who likely will spend more of his time this season playing on special teams but is getting more chances to practice with the first team. "You have to have goals. I look at things in a positive way, whether they're going good or bad. You have a say in your future. You don't have all the control, but you have some."
COLLEGE EDUCATION: Check.
Brewer always maintains that nothing in life has been promised to him. So rather than gamble, he always tried to have a back-up plan, options that would give him an opportunity to succeed whether football worked out or not.
Trying to figure where he fit into the team's plans, the Gophers experimented with Brewer, moving him from offense to defense. One day he was a receiver, the next he was in the secondary. That served as a harsh reminder football may not be in his long-term future.
Not a problem, really. For Brewer, that means — as always — you go back to the list. Thanks to the list, and a surplus of positive attitude, Brewer kept moving forward.
"You're talking to a guy who switched positions, and sometimes it didn't go well and I thought I'd never make it," he said. "But through the whole time I stayed positive. I never tanked it."
Not on the field. Not in the classroom. In fact, Brewer's uncertainty over his football career fueled his motivational fire in class and with homework.
"At times, I thought maybe football was not for me," he said. "Before I went to college I started preparing for what would happen if things wouldn't work out. I was concerned about grades. I always knew nothing was guaranteed."
He earned his degree at the University of Minnesota in sports management.
PLAY COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Check.
When Brewer arrived at the University of Minnesota, he knew a great deal of work awaited. Not only to earn a sports management degree, but what seemed to be just as important was to help earn respect for a college football program that had failed to find it in the previous decades.
The Gophers hadn't been to a bowl game since the mid-1980s. Even then, the Liberty and Independence bowls hardly screamed of moving closer to a national championship.
Even though they weren't New Year's Day bowls, Brewer helped the Gophers to the Sun Bowl and Micronpc.com Bowl in consecutive seasons in 1999 and 2000. But just when the program appeared to be arriving on the scene, it slipped into an abyss last fall, finishing in a tie for last place in the Big Ten.
"I was part of a rebuilding program. We came in and we hadn't been to a bowl game since '86, and we turned the program around," Brewer said. "But to end up last year like we did was disappointing. We were young, and we lost a lot of key positions and we had a lot of young guys who maybe weren't ready to play at the time. I think that was the biggest difference. But it will help them in the future."
SPORTS MARKETING CAREER: Check.
It didn't take long for Brewer to put his degree to work. After he completed his last semester of school in March, Brewer went to work in sports marketing.
Rather than ship his résumé to sports marketing firms across the country, Brewer opened an office in Minnetonka and created Jack Brewer Enterprises Sports Marketing. In its embryonic stages, JBE Sports hasn't cracked the Fortune 500 list yet. (He employed five part-time interns last spring.) But already JBE has created "Learn From the Pros" football camp and organized charity golf tournaments and continues to find endorsements for athletes.
The football instruction camp has been JBE's biggest enterprise so far. Brewer marketed the summer camp, in addition to serving as the camp's main clinician, but he received help and name recognition from Tyrone Carter, Antonio Wilson, Carey Scott, Michael Bennett and Tellis Redmon.
"My biggest thing was getting into it and building it," Brewer said of his company. "I had my football camp for the first time — we had 70 kids, which was really good — and I did pretty good at marketing it, and I cut my costs a lot and I made some money on it so I could pay the (company's) bills.
"JBE gives me something to do in the offseason and something to work on."
VALUE YOUR FRIENDS: Check.
Ever since he first taped that list onto his bedroom wall, Brewer always knew the importance of surrounding himself with good people, and treasuring their friendships.
At the ‘U,' they were two years apart — Tyrone Carter was a senior when Brewer was a sophomore. But their relationship was tight, and Carter served as a role model for Brewer while the two wore maroon and gold.
"I looked up to TC so much in college," Brewer said. "I was a freshman when he was a junior, and I played with him for two seasons. The guy was the best football player I've ever been around. He was a great leader on and off the field."
Brewer would have never guessed he'd end up playing professionally with Carter. Even his checklist didn't have any indication of that.
"To get the chance to come and play with him … that was a dream come true," Brewer said. "He's helped me out so much with plays and learning the ropes and learning how to be a pro football player. I give him a lot of credit."
PLAY IN THE NFL: Check.
There was no fine line between reality and expectations for Brewer last April, during the NFL draft. He was told he probably wouldn't get drafted, yet nearly 30 safeties were selected that weekend. Surely, with that many college safeties getting drafted, Brewer figured he would have heard his name announced on ESPN.
"The question was if I was aggressive enough," Brewer said. "That made me laugh. They said I was too skinny and not fast enough … I heard all of it. But I knew deep in my heart what my abilities were.
"I was disappointed when I didn't get drafted. It hurt me a lot. Whenever somebody looks over you or past you, it puts a chip on my shoulder. I have something to prove, and I have to go out and play hard and prove that I belong here."
Favorite vehicle: Ford Excursion
Current vehicle: Ford Excursion
Favorite actor: Bernie Mack
Favorite actress: Jennifer Lopez
Favorite movie: The Godfather
Favorite TV show: The A-team
Toughest player I ever faced: Tyrone Carter
If I weren't playing football: I'd be running my own sports marketing business.
Getting To Know: Safety Jack Brewer
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