Sept. 24, 2016
By: Jim Daves
It is exactly 2,231 miles from Connor Brewer’s home on Camelback Road in Phoenix to the McCue Center, home of UVA’s football program.
Two summers ago, Brewer made the mad dash across the country like a competitor in the Gumball Rally. Behind the wheel in his matte black Dodge Charger, he made one overnight stop, in Oklahoma City, during the 34-hour journey. He had a reliable co-pilot for the trip. Riding shotgun, and handling a good deal of the navigating, was his mother, Deborah.
Brewer’s parents, Deborah and Robert, have played a big part in his athletic achievements and helped to steer him during his wandering college experience that has included stops at Texas, Arizona – almost Northern Arizona too – and now Virginia. Robert played basketball at Grand Canyon College and Deborah was named Miss Georgia and competed in the 1979 Miss America Pageant.
Deborah gave up a promising career as a popular news anchor in Phoenix after 10 years to start her family, so the cross country trek was easy for a mom who made a new career out of raising five children who each earned Division I athletic scholarships.
Like an Old West gang, that quintet of youngsters made their mark in the Scottsdale area, looting championship trophies, medals and hardware. They didn’t ride into town on quarter horses with side arms. They did it in a black Chevy Suburban with baseballs, volleyballs, swim goggles and football pads. The vehicle’s personalized license plate said it all – BrewCrew.
The five Brewer children – Charles, Chase, Connor, Ashley and Abby – rank among the Grand Canyon State’s most successful group of siblings. Charles and Chase excelled on the baseball diamond. Both matriculated at UCLA, where Charles became a 12th-round draft pick by the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2009. In 2013 he was called up by the parent club for a four-game stretch, becoming the first Arizona-born player to be drafted, developed and play for the franchise.
Chase signed a minor-league contract with the Diamondbacks, played briefly in 2012 and now works as a sports agent in Los Angeles.
Ashley made her mark in the pool as a backstroker and was a 12-time prep All-American at Chaparral High School. She swam for Texas in 2011 and 2012, competed in the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials, then transferred to USC and completed her career there in 2014. She now works as a sports reporter for KGUN-TV in Tucson.
Abby’s collegiate athletic career started on the volleyball court at Tennessee, but she made her way back to Pac-12 country when she transferred to USC to play beach volleyball. She will graduate next spring and start a career, also in sports broadcasting.
“It was a crazy atmosphere,” said Brewer of his family’s sports events-laced schedule. “Everyone was playing a different sport. Everyone was on a different time schedule. My mom and dad were busy trying to get us around to every athletic event possible. It was hectic and crazy, but it was fun to push each other.”
Connor grew up playing both football and baseball. At first, he did not care much for life on the gridiron.
“I really didn’t like football,” he said. “I did not like getting hit or any of that stuff. Going into eighth grade, I wasn’t even going to play that year. I wanted to sit out but my parents made me play. The coach put me at quarterback and I ended up loving it. It became fun when I started playing quarterback.”
Fun indeed, especially for the Chaparral High School supporters. Brewer led the team to three consecutive 5A state titles and racked up every conceivable prep honor. He had his choice of top-shelf college programs and elected to become a Texas Longhorn. That’s when he hit his first road block.
Brewer enrolled at the Austin campus early, redshirted his freshman season in 2012 and then found himself behind a younger player after spring practice ended. He wanted a change of scenery and a new start and headed back home, joining the program at Arizona. As a transfer, he was forced to sit out the 2013 season and appeared in just two games in 2014.
With an undergraduate degree in hand, and two years of eligibility left on his clock, Brewer looked elsewhere. He figured to be headed to Northern Arizona but at the 11th hour he opted to visit UVA.
Having never been east before, he did not know what to expect, but quickly fell in love with Grounds, the football staff and the opportunity for a world-class education.
“I know if I had gone to Northern Arizona, I would have played there,” Brewer said. “They were excited I was going. I was going to be ‘the guy.'”
“UVA presented an opportunity to play at the highest level again, and there was a great academic side,” he said. “There was the chance to get my master’s degree and make a lot of good connections. There is a whole other world after sports and this was something I could not pass up. It was an easy decision after I made my visit.”
Brewer is close to finishing his degree in educational psychology in the Curry School. At the same time he is auditing a law school class and preparing for the LSAT tests.
He does not know what he wants to do in the future, just that he wants to do it in Dallas.
“I love the culture there,” he said. “It’s (Texas) a fun state. It’s too cold here. I can’t deal with the winters here. When I see snow, I have to burrow away.”
Those type of experiences have been the part of his personal journey of discovery he savors.
“It has been life-changing for me,” he said. “When you are that big of a recruit coming out, there are very high standards for yourself and that others put on you. You learn that sometimes things don’t work out the way everyone expects, but that God has a plan for everyone.
“It has been kind of humbling to figure out my role as a backup quarterback and to help prepare the starter and to help the team any way I can and to provide enthusiasm and support to my teammates.”
Brewer makes it clear he has no regrets in his role as the backup signal-caller for the Hoos. He’s enjoying the opportunity to play and learn from first-year UVA coach Bronco Mendenhall, his fourth college head coach.
“Matt Johns and I were talking about how great it would be to have three years with Coach Mendenhall telling us all of this stuff and shaping us into young men,” he said. “It would be awesome. I’ve got one year of it so I’m excited to take in this one season.”
And then this member of the Brew Crew will finally ride off into the sunset.