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Bohls: Brenden Schooler is finishing what he started for yet another head coach

  • Brenden Schooler will be playing for his sixth different head football coach in his career.
  • Tom Schooler said his sons, Brenden and Colin, both have strong leadership skills.
  • Steve Sarkisian jokes with Brenden, "I don't know if there's a speech he's never heard."

Tom Schooler saw it in his two sons at an early age.

Both Brenden and Colin, the younger brother by a mere 19 months, had obvious leadership skills that always drew a crowd.

When Tom was coaching Brenden’s Little League baseball team and had to show up early for field prep to do everything, including lining the basepaths, his son was right there alongside, and his teammates quickly followed suit without even being asked.

When Colin was playing basketball for his new sixth-grade club team, he walked into the gym and sat by himself. Before long, eight or so of his future teammates sitting on the other side of the gym ambled over and joined him. 

“They’re both so personable,” Tom Schooler said. “People just gravitate to them. They pull people to them.”

Texas' Brenden Schooler tries to tackle TCU's JD Spielman on a kickoff return last season. Schooler, a former wide receiver, will have plenty of chances to make tackles this season: He has switched to safety and will continue to play on five of the six special teams.

And vice versa.

Brenden, 24, has so gravitated to college head football coaches that he’s played for an eye-popping six of them. 

That’s six if you count the four spring practices under Kevin Sumlin at Arizona in 2020 before the pandemic temporarily shut down the Wildcats' program and sent Schooler scrambling for a new place to play as late as mid-August last summer. 

He quickly found one in Austin.

“Yeah, you’re here one moment,” he said last week, “and you’re gone the next.”

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Schooler played for three different head coaches at Oregon alone, learning the college game under Mark Helfrich, Willie Taggart and Mario Cristobal before graduating in three years and heading to Arizona as a grad transfer, where he had hoped to play alongside Colin.

Then after talking to schools such as Virginia and Kentucky, he settled on Texas, where Schooler was schooled first by Tom Herman and now Steve Sarkisian. This 6-foot-2, 206-pound extrovert with the wild hair and penchant for big plays made an impact in his very first game for the Longhorns, scoring a touchdown and catching two passes for 65 yards against UTEP last September. 

Texas wide receiver Brenden Schooler fights for yardage against Colorado cornerback Christian Gonzalez during last year's Alamo Bowl. Schooler's switch to safety for his final season takes him back to the position where he started as a freshman at Oregon..

Now he enters his final season as the Longhorns’ physical starting safety in addition to filling roles on five of the six special teams. He was twice an All-Pac-12 pick on special teams.

“Six coaches. It’s got to be a record,” Tom Schooler said. “Luckily, Brenden’s the son of a coach, and he can pick things up quickly.”

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Brenden’s had to. But that’s nothing new for this former five-sport high school athlete from Dana Point, Calif., tucked between Los Angeles and San Diego. Colin, a starting linebacker at Texas Tech for a second season after being a three-year starter at Arizona, has played for only three head coaches, including Rich Rodriguez, but also six linebackers coaches and four defensive coordinators in his career.

Former Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger razzed Colin after the Longhorns’ victory over Texas Tech and said, “So Texas wasn’t good enough for you, huh?”

Replied Colin, “Texas never recruited me.”

The brothers’ travels have helped them mature, maybe faster than most.

“I joke with Brenden sometimes that I don't know if there's a speech I could give the team that he has never heard before somewhere from somebody,” Sarkisian said. “But I love his approach. I think he's a guy who appreciates his opportunity.”

Texas Tech linebacker Colin Schooler tackles Baylor's Qualan Jones during the Red Raiders' 24-23 victory last season in Lubbock. When Tech played Texas last year, Colin was able to tackle his older brother, Brenden.

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Both Schoolers do and have made the most of it. And both brothers are as well-versed in change as they are versatile.

When he wasn’t the team MVP for the 16-0 state champion football team that Tom coached in 2015 at Mission Viejo, Brenden was switching from football to basketball to baseball to track and, yes, even to volleyball. 

“He enjoyed football the most,” said Tom, himself a second-team all-conference linebacker at Eastern Michigan before he coached for 27 seasons and then took a job in sales for a communications company. “But he could have been successful in any one of them.”

The one year Schooler played volleyball, he was the team MVP.  When he ran track his senior year, they stuck him at long jump for the first time. He finished 11th at the state meet. That was in addition to a 10.7 time he posted in the 100 meters as well as the championship relay teams he anchored.

Colin limited his sports to three but ran an 11.1 in the only 100 in which he ever competed, threw the discus and finished 11th in the state meet in the shot put. Colin is bigger than Brenden, and Tom jokes that he was “twice the size of everybody out there in the 100. He took up the entire lane.”

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Now in their final seasons, they’re ready to go out in style before they strive for NFL careers if it works out.

And after that?

They want to be firefighters. Naturally.

“Yeah, that’s Plan B when football is all said and done,” Brenden said. “I went on a ride-along in 2017 with the Eugene fire department, and I fell in love with the camaraderie and being able to help people.”

Oregon wide receiver Brenden Schooler catches a pass over Ducks cornerback Thomas Graham Jr. during the 2019 spring game. Schooler played for three different coaches at Oregon (Mark Helfrich, Willie Taggart and Mario Cristobal) before graduating in three years and transferring to Arizona. He came to Texas last summer.

What else would they aspire to be, this pair of daredevils, if you will? Almost since they were born, they’ve both gotten a huge rush out of all sorts of adventures, from motorcycle riding to surfing to even cliff-jumping.

That’s pretty much in keeping with Brenden’s entire nature. He’s always marched to his own drummer, whether it’s his extremely long, curly hair that helped earn him the nickname “Sunshine” or his 10 tattoos that he initiated as an Oregon sophomore.

All of them have special meaning for Brenden, from the three palm trees signifying his two siblings to the two sea turtles representing his parents, Tom and Christine, to a family tree on one calf. He plans to finish the leg sleeve after the season.

“I’m a bit of an adrenalin junkie,” he admitted. “We’re both fearless. We grew up at the beach, riding big waves and cliff-diving. It’s hard to replicate.”

Even their 19-year-old sister, Makenna, always tagged along. When she was 9, she was right there with the rest of the family, hanging on to a chain anchored in the rock on the side of a steep mountain at Zion National Park.

“Brenden’s always moving. He never stops,” Tom said. “And Colin’s not going to get outdone by his big brother. They competed at everything, whether it’s food at the table or who's riding shotgun.”

The two siblings communicate constantly with texts or calls or even funny memes about each other.

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And when they squared off for the third time ever in last year’s Texas-Texas Tech game, Brenden got the better of Colin for the second time in a thrilling overtime contest at AT&T Jones Stadium in Lubbock. That also was the first time Colin had ever tackled Brenden in a game, after Brenden made a catch for a short gain near midfield. Tom and Christine watched from their seats on the 40-yeard line, just eight rows up behind the Longhorns' bench.

When they got up after the play, Colin turned to Brenden and said, “I hate you so much.”

Their dad laughed when he heard that.

“That kind of broke the tension,” Tom said.

They’ll face each other again at Royal-Memorial Stadium in their final collegiate meeting Sept. 25, and the entire family will be on hand. Tom and Christine have all but worn out her 2017 black Nissan Rogue and his slate-colored 2007 F-150. “I’ve beaten that thing to death,” Tom joked.

Instead of adding to the 130,000 miles he has on his truck, they moved to Round Rock this month, and Christine took a job as a registered nurse. In truth, the boys joke that they get their athleticism from her since she was a volleyball player at Cal State LA.

When the boys were young, the parents put them in the same bedroom so they could work through any differences and get along after their competitiveness occasionally went too far. It paid off for one very tight-knit family that wound up in Texas.

One week before their openers, both Schoolers are approaching their final season as dress rehearsals for the NFL, and both should have an opportunity, given their versatility, athleticism, want-to and leadership qualities.

Brenden prefers the defensive side of the ball and loves playing safety, a position where he started as an Oregon freshman and had a team-high four interceptions. He’s looking to make that kind of impact again.

“Brenden’s a very smart player,” Sarkisian said. “And because of his experience on offense and on defense, I think he has a really high football IQ. He’s a really valuable piece of the puzzle for us defensively and in our special teams. It's been a heck of a journey in his college football career.”

With plenty more miles to go.