BLACKSBURG, Va. — When Virginia Tech associate head coach Shane Beamer first checked his voicemail and heard the voice of Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris in late January, he figured it must be about a job. He never expected to discover a quarterback during the return phone call.
“I basically said, ‘Look, you don’t know me that well. We’re in the same conference. You may not trust me,’ ” Morris recalled. “ ‘I’m just telling you, I’d put my name on this guy. If we had a spot at Clemson, he’d be at Clemson. I wouldn’t even be making this phone call to you.’ ”
Redshirt junior Michael Brewer, the end result of that conversation between rival coaches, sat at the podium for Virginia Tech’s annual media day Saturday morning as the most experienced of the team’s potential starting signal callers. He arrived at Virginia Tech in June and is eligible to play this fall after graduating from Texas Tech last spring.
Coach Frank Beamer has, so far, offered few clues about the identity of his starting quarterback when the Hokies open the 2014 regular season against William and Mary later this month. Redshirt senior Mark Leal and redshirt sophomore Brenden Motley are Brewer’s main competition.
But Frank Beamer already acknowledges the unusual path that brought Brewer from the heart of Texas to southwest Virginia could not have worked out better for the program.
“It just kind of fell into place for us,” Beamer said Saturday.
That Brewer is a college quarterback seems almost preordained. His father, Robert, and his grandfather Charlie were quarterbacks at Texas. Robert then married the sister of the quarterback who succeeded him at Texas, Rob Moerschell. Brewer also has a great-uncle who played in the backfield at Oklahoma alongside Darrell Royal and another great-uncle who started at fullback at Texas Tech.
Michael Brewer said his first football memory is the “back-in-the-day VCR tape” of the 1982 Cotton Bowl, when his father led Texas to a fourth-quarter comeback win over Alabama and Coach Bear Bryant.
“That just meant the world to me back then,” Michael Brewer said. “Everybody played football, and most of them played quarterback at this level, so it’s always been a dream of mine growing up.”
He also had the good fortune of playing two years for Clemson’s Morris at Lake Travis High when it became the first Texas high school to win five consecutive state titles. Brewer outdueled Johnny Manziel twice as a high school senior but never garnered more than a grayshirt offer — an oral agreement to delay enrollment before receiving a scholarship — from then-Texas coach Mack Brown.
Brewer instead went to Texas Tech and looked poised to seize the starting job after appearing in nine games in 2012. That offseason, however, Coach Tommy Tuberville left for Cincinnati.
“That change kind of marked a turning point,” Robert Brewer said.
Brewer went through spring practice under new Coach Kliff Kingsbury before disaster struck. In a summer workout, he fractured a vertebra in his lower back, an injury doctors believe had been festering since his high school days.
Passed on the depth chart in the fall, Brewer mostly watched from the bench as the Red Raiders embarked on a 8-5 campaign. He didn’t feel 100 percent healthy until this spring, although he appeared in four games in 2013.
Shortly after the season ended, he decided to transfer. Only another obstacle awaited.
Brewer said he likely would be at either Texas or TCU right now if not for Texas Tech blocking his request to include both Big 12 schools on his list of potential destinations. Brewer appealed the decision to the NCAA to no avail, a judgment that doesn’t sit well with Robert Brewer after former Texas Tech co-offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie was allowed to take a job at TCU this offseason.
“We just couldn’t get it done because the head football coach at Texas Tech was able to say, ‘No, he’s not going there,’ even though he graduated and did things all the right way when that guy wasn’t even there and that guy didn’t even recruit him,” Robert Brewer said.
Morris, though, knew well Virginia Tech was also in search of a new quarterback with Logan Thomas headed to the NFL. Soon after the phone call with Shane Beamer, Hokies offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Scot Loeffler got involved. On Michael Brewer’s first visit to Blacksburg, he committed on the spot.
Brewer has treaded lightly in new surroundings, endearing himself to teammates with frequent fishing trips to the New River. A yellow kayak and fishing poles usually can be seen sticking out the back of his Ford F-150.
He never expected to be at Virginia Tech and often refers to the “journey” that got him here. He hopes it ends as a starting quarterback again.
“The tail was wagging big time when he got up to [Texas] Tech, and then he got knocked back,” Robert Brewer said. “I sense that he’s just in the process of getting back to who he was, and this is his chance to do that.”