By David Fong
Regional Sports Content Manager
Say this for Ryan Brewer — he doesn’t take slights lightly.
Just ask former Ohio State football coach John Cooper.
Or the Piqua football team.
When asked to pick one moment that he’ll most remember from a career with the Troy High School football team that earned him a spot in the inaugural Trojan Athletics Hall of Fame, Brewer didn’t select any of his record-breaking moments, earning Mr. Football Ohio or appearing in Sports Illustrated.
He selected the time he was burned in effigy at a Piqua pep rally before the annual showdown with Troy.
“I remember the time they burned a dummy of me at the Piqua bonfire,” Brewer said. “I’ll never forget that.”
In the game between the two bitter rivals the next night, Brewer rushed for more than 200 yards as the Trojans triumphed — the fourth time in a row they did that in Brewer’s career against the Indians.
“I still remember the picture in the paper,” Brewer said of one particular run during the game. “I had the ball on a sweep and some guy from Piqua got a hand on me — think it was No. 6. I gave him a stiff arm and broke free. His neck probably still hurts from that. At least I hope it does.”
The lesson is simple — you may “burn” Ryan Brewer once, but chances are he was going to get the last laugh.
It’s a lesson Cooper had to learn the hard way. Despite rushing for 2,856 yards in 10 games his senior season in 1998 and being named the top football player in the state, Brewer never received a scholarship offer from Cooper and the Buckeyes. Not that Ohio State was alone — none of the Big 10 schools or other Midwest powers came up with scholarship offers for Brewer, whom many recruiting analysts deemed too small and too slow to play at the Division I level.
Brewer instead opted for a scholarship offer from South Carolina — which was in the midst of one of the worst losing streaks in school history at the time. Under the guidance of coach Lou Holtz, the Gamecocks quickly turned things around, earning a trip to the Outback Bowl Brewer’s sophomore season.
South Carolina’s opponent in that bowl game?
Once again, Brewer cashed in on his chance for revenge, as he tallied 214 all-purpose yards and scored three touchdowns to lead the Gamecocks to a 24-7 victory over the Buckeyes. In the game’s aftermath, Brewer was named the game’s MVP and Cooper was fired as Ohio State’s head coach the very next day.
“I have a lot of great memories from Troy — but that Ohio State game in the Outback Bowl is tough to top,” Brewer said.
Indeed, Brewer’s accomplishments in his four years at Troy are seemingly endless. He holds nearly every major rushing record in school history, including: career rushing yards (7,656), single-season rushing yards (2,856), most points scored in a season (288) and most points scored in a career (761). Not only are his totals school records — they are seemingly untouchable. He’s the only running back to rush for more than 2,000 yards in a season twice in his career and his career rushing total is more than 2,100 yards more than the second-best total in school history.
“It was a heck of ride growing up in Troy,” Brewer said. “From the school itself to the coaching staff to the teachers to my teammates, I don’t think I would want it any other way. If you are a big-time high school football fan, Troy is the best place in the world to be.”
Following his career at South Carolina, Brewer played briefly in NFL Europe before returning to South Carolina and opening his own business. While he’s gone on to a successful career after football, Brewer said he’ll never forget his time at Troy.
“It’s pretty special,” Brewer said.
Contact David Fong at email@example.com; follow him on Twitter @thefong