By Luke Johnson
During his press conference acceptance speech, new Spartans head coach Brent Brennan suddenly noticed someone in the audience and became as giddy as a kid at Disneyland for the first time.
“Oh my goodness,” Brennan said.
He looked down at the podium, but couldn’t hide the blushing red marks on his cheeks. He then looked up toward the person and said, “Sorry, I just spotted a Spartan legend in the crowd. Good to see you, James.”
Everyone in that room (approximately 100 people) Thursday afternoon directed their attention to James Jones, who is a former Super Bowl Champion and led the NFL with 14 touchdown receptions in 2012. He also won the New Mexico Bowl MVP for SJSU in 2006.
“What’s up, Coach?” Jones responded.
It was a small gesture by Brennan, but the afternoon was full of small gestures that went a long way.
Brennan was hired as SJSU’s head football coach Wednesday. He was previously the wide receivers coach at Oregon State for six years, and before that was SJSU’s wide receiver coach from 2005 to 2010. He grew up in the Bay Area, so Thursday was essentially his homecoming.
When Brennan entered the press conference room, he raised his arms in the air like a boxer after delivering a knockout punch, and the crowd roared with enthusiasm in a standing ovation.
For Jones to make the trip to SJSU and welcome Brennan back to SJSU is an action that speaks for itself. Jones spent nine seasons in the NFL, and was only coached by Brennan for two years in college, but was impacted enough to give him his endorsement during Brennan’s inauguration.
“[He’s an] extremely talented coach,” Jones told The Spear. “I’m excited to see what he’s going to bring to San Jose State, and he’s had a chance, man, to be an assistant coach for a long time under great coaches.”
SJSU’s top returning player Andre Chachere, who earned First Team All-Mountain West honors at cornerback, said he connected with some friends on Oregon State’s football team and asked about Brennan. They told Chachere that Brennan has a massive amount energy and gets fired up on the sideline — similar to Jon Gruden or Jim Harbaugh.
This strongly contrasts former SJSU coach Ron Caragher, who appeared to be strictly business from the outside looking in. Against Air Force last month, he witnessed his job being saved and lost within the final minutes of the game and kept a straight face.
“They’re both good in different areas,” Chachere said. “The way he’s different is he’s probably a little more energetic. The energy that he brings is phenomenal … I like when coaches celebrate when we’re making plays. That’s the best feelin’.”
SJSU’s Athletic Director Gene Bleymaier said more than 75 people sought after this job, and boosted up its prestige by including that people from the NFL were turned down. He said one of the biggest reasons Brennan won the position was due to the praise he received for his ability to recruit, and added that he has a lot of “people skills.” — which truly showed Wednesday.
In the middle of a one-on-one interview, he looked at my jacket and exclaimed, “You went to Antioch High School?”
He went on to be very complimentary of my alma mater, its rival Pittsburg High School and the entire east side of Contra Costa County for its football prowess, and spoke of athletes who came from there. That was significant to me, because everyone who knows me knows how passionate I am about my hometown. Therefore, within eight minutes of becoming acquainted, Brennan was able form a bond with me.
We live in an era where coaches and athletes are expected to be politically correct day in and day out and are criticized for showing there true feelings. But Brennan is not ashamed to remain authentic.
No matter who took this job, he would have his work cut out for him because SJSU has a below average budget and reputation compared to other NCAA Division I teams. But after one day, Brent Brennan isn’t off to a bad start.