Upon leaving Penn State in January, tight end Adam Breneman issued a statement.
Now he’s trying to make one.
Something about perseverance and seeing things through. About following your dreams and seizing an opportunity.
“I just wanted a fresh start,” said Breneman, who’s now at UMass.
Understandable, considering the graduate transfer (albeit one with another year of eligibility beyond this one) missed his final year of high school ball when he tore up his right knee, then the better part of the last two seasons after injuring his left.
Now, he said, “I feel as good as I’ve felt in a long time.”
In every sense. He believes the offense run by head coach Mark Whipple (“an offensive genius,” Breneman said) plays to his strengths, even though he caught just two passes for six yards in a season-opening 24-7 loss at Florida last week.
The 6-4, 250-pound Breneman would like to think better things lie ahead, starting against Boston College Saturday on ASN and beyond.
“I think I have the talent and the ability — the size, the motivation — to play football and play it really well,” he said. “I hope to play at the highest level. My goal is to play in the NFL, and UMass is where I thought I would be given the best shot to get there.”
Coming to UMass also meant a reunion with Andrew Ford, his high school quarterback, and Austin Whipple, who is Mark’s son and Breneman’s close friend and former roommate at Penn State. Ford is a backup, and Whipple, once a walk-on QB at PSU who played two years for the Minutemen, had to give up the sport because of a shoulder injury. He now serves as a student assistant on his dad’s staff.
It seemed that ill health would doom Breneman’s career as well. Rated the nation’s top player at his position by ESPN.com before his senior year at Cedar Cliff High School, near Harrisburg, Pa., he missed that season after tearing his right ACL.
After a promising freshman year at Penn State he was forced to redshirt the 2014 season because of the injury to his left knee, the specifics of which he declined to reveal. Pennlive.com has reported that he suffered a bone bruise in spring practice that year, then some unspecified complications that resulted in surgery that July. He was limited to three catchless games in ’15.
“At the time it wasn’t really a big deal,” he said of the knee problem. “It just kind of ended up that way. Everyone heals a little differently, and it ended up taking more time than I originally thought. I had a couple complications here and there.”
Breneman earned his degree in business management in December 2015, then issued his statement on Jan. 7, in which he said in part that after consulting with medical personnel and family members, he had “come to the realization that now is the time for me to move on.”
“I never officially said I was done playing football,” he said Wednesday. “It was interpreted that way by a lot of different outlets. I could see why it would be interpreted that way. It was kind of a good-bye to Penn State.”
No hard feelings, though.
“It was nothing against Coach (James) Franklin, nothing against anyone else,” he said. “I just wanted a fresh start for my career.”
He returned to his home in Mechanicsburg, Pa., and “just kind of wanted to clear (his) head for a little bit.” In time he did. In time he began working out and feeling better. And finally he knew it was time to get back on the field.
No sooner did he connect with UMass than other schools expressed interest. That includes Penn State, by the way; Breneman said Franklin reached out to him about the possibility of returning.
But he knew Mark Whipple from the 2013-14 school year, when he visited Austin at PSU. Mark wasn’t coaching that year, so he hung out at practice, familiarized himself with the Lions’ players and staffers. And when he took the job at UMass the following year, his second stint at the school, Austin transferred in, having spent just a single year in Happy Valley.
Now Breneman has joined him, believing he can regain the form he showed as a freshman in ‘13, when he caught 15 balls for 186 yards and two touchdowns. The second was a 68-yard catch-and-carry at Wisconsin, the longest TD reception by a tight end in school history.
“I wanted to play in an NFL-style offense that would utilize the tight end, and allow me to make plays,” he said of his new team.
There are other considerations, to be sure — one being that Breneman has begun studying toward his MBA.
But more than anything he wanted to follow his dream. And make a statement.
Photo courtesy UMass Athletics