MOULTRIE – Former Colquitt County High and current Lenoir-Rhyne University offensive lineman Ian Brinson is a graduate student/athlete, doing some student-teaching, hoping one day to return to a South Georgia classroom.
And to a football sideline.
Brinson would like to become a coach and pass along what he has learned as a Packer and a Bear.
And who wouldn’t be interested in hiring him?
Any coach interested in adding a winner to his staff might want to give a look-see at this young man’s resume.
It reveals that in 2014 and 2015, he played on Colquitt County teams that went 15-0.
As a senior, he started on the offensive line for a Packers team that posted an 8-5 record, won a region championship before losing in the quarterfinals to Grayson, which went on to win the state title.
After agreeing to join former Packers teammate Landon Scott and play at Lenoir-Rhyne, a Division II program in Hickory, N.C., he and his fellow Bears suffered through a 3-7 season.
But Drew Cronic took over the Lenoir-Rhyne program the next year and the Bears promptly went 12-2 and 13-1, winning a pair of Southern Athletic Conference championships and qualifying for Division II playoff berths.
Even in the COVID-shortened 2020 season after Cronic had left to become Mercer’s head coach, Lenoir-Rhyne went 3-1.
And even after a loss to Newberry last Saturday, the 2021 Bears are 1-1.
So, over the last eight seasons, Brinson has played on teams that won 70 games. Two of those high school teams were undefeated and won state high school championships in Georgia’s highest classification. Two of his college teams won conference championships and reached the Division II quarterfinals.
And, by the way, Brinson has started 34 straight games at right tackle for the Bears. He also has been selected as one of the 2021 Lenoir-Rhyne football team’s captains.
Now working on his master’s degree in teaching, Brinson would be proud to return to South Georgia and pass along what he has learned over the last eight years.
“I’ve had so many influential coaches,” Kim and Joey Brinson’s son said, indicating he believes he has some wisdom to impart.
While at Colquitt County, he learned under the direction of the Packers well-respected offensive line coach Joey Bennett.
“He was awesome,” Brinson said. “He is one of my favorite coaches. He gave his all for me.
“I never wanted to disappoint coach Bennett. If I did something wrong, it was all on me.”
The Packers won the state championships in 2014 and 2015, going 15-0 each year.
Colquitt struggled out of the gate in 2016, his senior season, dropping its first four games.
But the Packers then reeled off eight straight wins before Grayson showed up to play on Tom White Field at Mack Tharpe Stadium to end the Packers season.
Two other members of Colquitt County’s 2016 offensive line are still playing college football: Quan Stokes is at Faulkner in Montgomery, Ala., and Will Rykard plays at Alabama-Birmingham.
The Naval Academy showed some early interest in having Brinson become part of its football program. As did West Alabama.
But Scott, a former Packers defensive back, had gone to Lenoir-Rhyne the previous year and put in a plug for his former teammate.
“I came up here to visit and said I liked it and they said, ‘Come on,’” Brinson said.
The first year was difficult.
Not only did the team win just three games, but being seven hours away from home was tough to deal with.
But then Cronic was named head coach before the 2018 season.
“At the first meeting, he said, ‘You’re my guys and we are going to win with you,’” Brinson remembered.
And win the Bears did.
After losing its first game, Lenoir-Rhyne won 12 straight before falling in the Division II playoffs to Valdosta State.
The next year, the Bears went 13-1 and won a second straight conference title before again being eliminated in the quarterfinals, this time by West Florida.
“It was a complete 180,” Brinson said of the program after Cronic took over. “He taught us to trust and love each other. And he created a strong bond with the team.”
Brinson also bonded with offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Bob Bodine.
He was Bodine’s kind of player.
“He wasn’t interested as much in technique,” Brinson said. “He wanted tough guys.
“That’s like the way it was at Colquitt County. If you were tough, you got to play.”
After Cronic left for Macon, Mike Jacobs was named head coach and he hired Anthony Soto as offensive line coach.
Jacobs has a different, but still successful approach.
“He lets the team be more player-led,” Brinson said.
Brinson also respects Soto’s approach.
“He has especially helped me with my pass protection,” he said. “I’ve been super blessed with guys I’ve played for.”
The pandemic moved the shortened 2020 season to the spring of 2021 and the Bears won all three of their games heading into the South Atlantic Conference championship game.
Lenoir-Rhyne hosted the game in Hickory, N.C., but fell to Tusculum 28-23 on April 10.
Tusculum featured two of Brinson’s former Colquitt County teammates: receiver Tory Ponder, who caught seven passes for 123 yards in the championship game, and defensive lineman Nelson Louis, who was credited with two assisted tackles.
Even though he is a graduate student, Brinson took advantage of the NCAA ruling granting players an additional year of eligibility and decided to join a number of other teammates in returning for a quest for a national title.
Lenoir-Rhyne opened the season with a 48-7 win at Virginia State, but slipped up and fell at Newberry 28-21 last week.
The Bears will be back at home at Moretz Stadium on Saturday to face Mars Hill in an SAC contest and will get a chance to avenge last spring’s loss to Tusculum when the Pioneers go to Hickory on Oct. 9.
The 2021 Division II playoffs begin on Nov. 20 as teams vie for a national championship.
“I really feel like we’ve got a shot,” he said.