CEDAR FALLS — Despite other opportunities that may be present, many feel the urge to follow in their parents’ footsteps in life.
Jared Brinkman falls into that category. After his father, Mike, put in a commendable career at Northern Iowa, the Iowa City Regina product couldn’t help but don the purple and gold when it came to making his college choice.
“My dad played (at UNI), so growing up, I was always a big Panthers fan,” Brinkman said. “I went to a bunch of the games. It’s just knowing the program we have here and the expectations, it (was) just an easy choice.”
There were other opportunities for Brinkman. He was a state champion in the shot put as a senior, as well as a state champion heavyweight wrestler. However, his recruiting process never became complicated as colleges were aware that he would play football at the next level.
After making his choice to come to UNI, Brinkman — a former Gazette Male Athlete of the Year finalist — quickly shot up UNI’s depth chart. Typically, if true freshmen earn playing time at UNI, they’re offensive players. Mark Farley and Jeremiah Johnson’s defense doesn’t lend itself to student-athletes trying to make the mental jump from high school to Division-I, but Brinkman’s intellect and physical prowess overcame.
“Jared is so consistent and so tough,” Farley said at Monday’s press conference. “He makes a difference for (us) as far as the penetration he gets and what he can do from his position. There’s few that can do what (Jared) does. He’s explosive off the ball.”
While he wasn’t a starter, and while Farley prefers to develop and redshirt as many of his true freshmen as possible, Brinkman proved himself to be productive enough — highlighted most recently by a five-tackle, two-sack effort in week 3 against Iowa — that he couldn’t be kept off the field once he arrived in Cedar Falls.
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“The opportunity (the coaches) gave me helped me so much, because it just gave me confidence,” Brinkman said. “And it definitely helped me this season, because I wasn’t scared or nervous going into our first game.”
Now a sophomore, Brinkman attributes part of his quick ascension up the depth chart to his wrestling background.
“Footwork and the use of the hands (helps),” Brinkman said. “I think the biggest thing is just the mental toughness you have to have in wrestling. That definitely has come with me and (it) helps me out a ton.”
With the Panthers holding a 2-3 record and their backs against the proverbial wall, Brinkman is aware of the steep climb that’s ahead of him and his teammates to reach their goal of the FCS playoffs.
After allowing 56 points a Saturday ago to No. 1 North Dakota State (5-0, 2-0), he’s confident in the defense’s ability to rebound at 6 p.m. Saturday at South Dakota (3-2, 2-0).
“We know (against NDSU) the defense really didn’t do their part in the game,” Brinkman said. “That really hurt us. I think we’re just ready to prove to the Valley and to our offense that we’re (going to) hold up our end.”