FOOTBALL: Elite 11 invite is a huge accomplishment for the small Ryan Brand
DETROIT – Ryan Brand was scrolling through his Twitter notifications on Monday, and noticed that he had a tweet from Seattle Seahawks quarterback, Russell Wilson, of all people. It was no ordinary tweet either, as Wilson informed Brand that he had just been invited to the Elite 11 Finals.
The Elite 11 is a quarterback competition for some of the high school quarterbacks in the country, which for Brand, was an honor and a shock to be apart of.
"I had to keep checking and refreshing my page to make sure that was my name he (Wilson) was tweeting," he laughed. "That was the most shocking experience, especially being that he is the player that I look up to, and follow the most."
Wilson’s story has been well documented since he came into the league in 2012. He led the Seahawks to its first Super Bowl title last season in his second year, becoming the second black quarterback to do so. But Wilson’s greatest feat, may be that he’s doing this at only 5-foot-11. And that’s on a good day.
See Brand himself is only 5-foot-10, on a good day, and models his game after Wilson’s. Both have good arms, but what makes them special is their ability to improvise and use their feet. Majority of the other invitees have prototypical size, and major college offers, so for Brand to be invited meant a lot to him.
"It just means that at the end of the day, performance is what truly matters," Brand said. "If you make it undeniable that you’re the best on the field, there isn’t much room for anything else to be said. So it is really just a blessing that I’ve been given this opportunity to show my talents, and compete with the best of them."
Being invited was just the first step for Brand. If he plans to win it all, he has to bring his A-game. The other finalists are committed to heavyweights like Notre Dame, Michigan, USC, and UCLA just to name a few. So he knows it won’t be your typical local type of competition.
"I have no idea what my chances are of winning," said Brand. "They are all great, polished quarterbacks with huge futures. I can only control performing to my best abilities, and putting the rest in God’s hands. Hopefully my performance and character separates myself from the others."
Brand will be a senior at U-D Jesuit in the fall, and will be joined by fellow Catholic High School League quarterback, Alex Malzone (committed to Michigan). The both of them camped at the Columbus Elite 11 Regional last week, where Malzone and Texas quarterback Ben Hicks both received their invites.
"Actually after Alex and Ben got their invites the same day as Columbus, I was pretty doubtful I was going to receive the invite," he said. "But that shows the strength of the CHSL Central. We play at such a high level, and face elite talent from week to week. It is huge that our league is getting recognized on a national level.
"Alex and I both know the importance of representing not only our schools, or league, but all of Michigan football, which hasn’t been respected throughout the years. It is definitely a statement being made."
Brand has two college offers to date, one from Air Force, and the other from Indiana State. For a moment he was concerned about not being able to play at the next level because of his size. But he has proved himself wrong, and more and more colleges have been showing interest in him.
Some of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game have been called undersized, including Fran Tarkenton, Drew Brees, and Michael Vick. So for guys like Brand, even if you’ve been called too small all of your life, that doesn’t mean your future can’t be big.
"Some people like to isolate themselves from all of the negative comments," he said. "I just take everything in, and use it as fuel, and continue work my butt off. I understand that no matter what, my size will always be in discussion, so I have to work 10 times more than the other quarterbacks.
"You have to separate yourself that much and be that much better than other quarterbacks, so you always have to strive for more and put in the extra hours behind closed doors. Don’t let the comments, or gestures discourage you, just drop in the fuel tank and keep working."
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