As a boy growing up in Maryland, Scott McBrien possessed an uncanny ability to throw any type of ball with a coordinated, accurate motion. Determined to be a baseball player, Scott shunned everything about the game of football—until the day a friend convinced him to join a youth football league. As he grunted through lung-choking wind sprints, Scott began an exciting journey where he would tackle adversity head-on and focus on winning not just in the game of football, but also in the game of life.
In a compelling true story about a gifted, yet at times uncertain, player and young man, Scott leads others through his quarterbacking progression from youth football through high school and West Virginia before a coaching change precipitated a gut-wrenching transfer to Maryland. As Scott details how he worked his way from being a walk-on who ran the scout team to a standout quarterback, he candidly reveals how he struggled within the dog-eat-dog world of NCAA football, persevered through challenges, and determinedly never let go of his dream.
Terrapin Tales shares an inspirational coming-of-age true story of a young football player’s unrelenting quest to become a Division 1 quarterback where he learned as much about life as the game itself.
That Monday going out onto the practice field, Coach Locksley came up beside me and said through an emerging grin, "Gonna visit your old boys from the hills this weekend." And I replied, "Coach Locks, it's not about that." He winked at me as if we were sharing a secret. "Oh yeah it is, Scotty." Coach Locksley was always encouraging players in his own casual way, but behind it was the heart of a man who cared deeply about us not only as players, but people. Every team needs a Coach Locks. Approaching the practice field, I saw six big speakers on tall stands surrounding the field. I wasn't sure what that was about. After warm-ups, I huddle with the offense and came to the line of scrimmage against the scout team. As I began to call out the play, a song blared out of the speakers: "Almost heaven, West Virginia ... From my time as a Mountaineer, I knew that song by heart. It was John Denver singing "Take Me Home, Country Road." I couldn't believe it. Coach Locksley was screaming at me, "This is your song, Scotty. We gonna visit your old boys from the hills." I stepped back from center and couldn't help but crack up laughing as did the rest of my teammates who were screaming out, "Yeehaw, it's Scott's song." It was a great move on Coach Friedgen's part, for it not only loosened up the team, but I had the support of my coaches and teammates for this game. During practice that week, Coach Friedgen was on my case, yelling at me for every little mishap on my part, but I never let it get to me. I didn't perceive it like the wild rants that I endured with Coach Rodriguez. It's funny in looking back on it now, Coach Friedgen could really upset some of my teammates with his harangues, but to me after dealing with Rich Rod it never bothered me. This all came to a head later in the week when I threw a pass late to a receiver over the middle, and Coach Friedgen stopped practice clutching his ever-present clipboard and began screaming at me, "McBrien, if you throw late across the middle one more time, I will run you until your heart stops." I was in the huddle with the offense trying to call the next play, and Coach Friedgen came storming up to the rear of the huddle, and hollered in my ear, "Do you understand me, McBrien?" I looked up at my huddled teammates and smiled nice and easy, as if I didn't have a care in the world. There was a collective look of awe in their eyes, as if they couldn't believe this wasn't getting to me, and in the shadows of their gaze was a new found look of respect. A look that said, "Our quarterback has some cojones-big ones." That was the last time Coach Friedgen ever went ballistic on me. I think he had been testing me all along to see if I could take it, and also, to prepare me for what he expected I would receive from a packed house in Morgantown. And part of the reason, Coach Friedgen's tirades never got to me was the fact that they never seemed personal, but more like a gruff uncle who went off every now and then. All week leading up to the game, Coach Friedgen would not allow the media to speak with me. I think he was worried not so much that I would say the wrong thing, but he didn't want me answering a lot of questions over my return to West Virginia. He was trying to keep me as calm and focused as possible. He knew that this game was important to me as it was for the entire team. On Friday, the team took a three and a half hour bus ride from College Park to Morgantown. Coach Friedgen had me sit next to him for the entire trip, picking my brain about West Virginia's tendencies, formations, going over the entire game plan with me. While my teammates zoned out napping or listening to music on headphones, I spent an exhausting session in classroom with the head coach. But mentally, I was in a good place. Coach Friedgen and his staff had prepared me with an excellent game plan as how to attack the Mountaineer defense. "If they're in a 3-3 stack, Scott," Coach Friedgen had told me every day in film session that week, "and the d.b. comes to the line, look for Jafar in the flat." Or if the defense backs stay back, call the run. The game plan was to run the ball until they changed their defense by bringing more men to the line and then we pass. Simple reads, but as it turned out, effective reads. I was confident in understanding the Mountaineers schemes and knowing the tendencies of the players behind the schemes. What they liked to do in certain situations and who was strong in coverage, who was week in pursuit, all the little traits that I had practiced against for two years was now a big asset in my favor. We stayed at a hotel on the outskirts of Morgantown, and all during team meetings, meals and walk-throughs in a conference room, I maintained an aura of calmness. And my teammates seemed to pick up on this as if to say, "If Scott isn't worried about this game, then we're okay." It wasn't anything I was doing intentionally, but more of exuding a sense of preparedness, of being ready for this moment, a very big moment in my life. Saturday morning, we departed the hotel for Mountaineer Field. When we entered the parking lot, little kids were flipping us the bird, adults throwing batteries and eggs at the bus, all of them screaming and yelling at us. Welcome to Mountaineer football. But I had seen this act before. Many of my teammates had never experienced such a wild scene entering a stadium, and once again they seemed to pick up on my relaxed state of confidence, as if saying, "If it isn't bothering Scott, then it sure isn't gonna bother me." Also, this was a chance to show Rich Rodriguez what he had missed in a quarterback, and I was so looking forward to playing against my old friends. When we went on the field for pre-game warm-ups-jerseys with no pads-the students section was packed, nary an empty seat. When they spotted me, they began a sing-songy chant: F... McBrien ... F... McBrien. On and on it went. But, little did those students know that instead of upsetting me, it made me all the more determined to show them my A-game. And then when my teammates came up to me to offer words of encouragement, it sent a chill down my spine that I can still remember to this day-game on. As all the commotion was going on, one of my receivers, Steve Suter, said to me, "Isn't that a beautiful chant. We got your back today, McBee." Suter always called me McBee. He then ran over to the Mountaineer student section and raised his arms as if to say, "Louder." Steve Suter was a one of a kind player and teammate. That moment was the first time I felt the team rally behind me as if they were saying, "You're our quarterback, you're our guy." Before we returned to the field for the opening kickoff, Steve Suter and Rich Parson, also a receiver, called me to the front of the line and told me to lead the team out of the tunnel. As I led the Terps out, I was greeted by 65,000 strong booing me with a vengeance. It was one of the coolest moments of my football career. Yeah, bring it on! In the stands I had a contingent of family and friends: My mother and Katie, uncles, aunts, and cousins. My family knew how important this game was to me and also them. After we received the kickoff, I came on the field, and once again I heard a thunderous roar of boos-the return of the prodigal son. Opening drive, we moved the ball right down the field. From West Virginia's 20 yard line, I set up in the shotgun, put the ball in the belly of my back, Chris Downs, saw the end lunge for Chris, and pulled the ball out of Chris's belly. The defense made a beeline toward the Chris, leaving me all alone-just like Coach Taaffe had envisioned when he drew up the play.
Scott McBrien is a communications consultant and sideline reporter for the Big Ten Network who continues his association with Maryland football as a radio analyst for the Terps. He resides in Rockville, Maryland, with his wife, Claire, and daughter, Allie.
Dennis McKay is author of the popular A Boy from Bethesda and four other novels. He resides in Chevy Chase, Maryland.