by Chris Warner
Whether it’s the attitude, the weather, or the surfing, Bill Belichick likes something about California. Just ask his quarterbacks. All three of the current New England QBs hail from the Golden State, as does last year’s recently-traded starter.
If the coach wanted to add another Cali kid to the roster, he’d have a solid candidate in Tom Brandstater. A three-year starter for Fresno State, Brandstater threw for nearly 7,000 yards in his career while under the tutelage of past Belichick coaching associate Pat Hill.
Brandstater took several minutes to field questions from PD yesterday.
So, how’s it going out there?
It’s going great. Beautiful weather, loving California, and just getting ready for the big day.
In terms of the big day, what teams have you spoken with so far?
I’ve kind of spoken with everyone. You know, counting the combine, once that begins, you’re talking to every team. As the process gets closer and closer, (some) teams talk more than others, and those teams have been all over the place.
Now, are you able to talk about which teams you’ve been speaking with?
I don’t know. I don’t know what the rule on that is, or how that goes, but basically I’ve been talking to a whole bunch of different teams. No one in particular, but, you know, some teams keep in contact better than others.
There was a report that you’ve spoken with the Patriots. Is that true?
Yeah, I talked to them at the combine quite a bit. I had a nice interview with one of their guys. I had a nice little conversation.
In terms of those types of conversations, what do they involve? Is there a big difference from team to team, or do they all go along the same lines?
Well, actually, they’re all very similar…First, they just talk a little bit, get to know you and how you think, how you see life, and how you view things. Then another team, they’ll just talk about football, how you process information, how you view the game, a lot of stuff. The X’s and O’s of football. All our conversations are similar, but each team has their own twist on how they like to do things and things they emphasize, so going in you never know what to expect. You’ve just got to kind of be yourself and answer the questions as honestly as possible, because at some point, if you try to be a different person, it’s going to come back and bite you.
How do you think the past three years at Fresno State have helped you prepare for this?
Oh, huge. Fresno is a great place to play, but it’s also a tough place to play. There’s a lot of media scrutiny, and there’s a lot of stuff that goes into it. It’s run like a pro-style team. You know, Coach Hill runs a tight ship, and there isn’t much wiggle room. So he does do it the right way, and I think, it’s not in a huge market like most NFL teams are, but things are run here very similarly to how those are at the next level. So “prepared” means I’ve just been around it. I kind of know what to expect, and nothing really gets me off guard.
How do you think you’ve improved over the past three years as a starter?
You know, I try to do all the little things right. At the start of the year, my first couple games playing, my first year starting, basically no matter how much practice you do, nothing prepares you for a game situation. So there was an element of uncertainty and making rookie mistakes, if you will. From game to game, year to year, I’ve tried to slowly but surely improve every little, small aspect and try to make the game slow down, and really embrace it. And just get better with every game.
Do you think, over your career, you’ve seen just about every kind of defense?
I think at some point I’ve seen just about everything, at least that college guys can throw at you. Going to the next level, I’m sure – it’s just a small, small percentage of what I’m about to see. But I definitely played against a lot of different teams that played a lot of different coverages.
What teams do you think were the most difficult to play?…What college teams threw the most at you?
I think San Jose State had a good scheme, but I never had a problem with them, picking up the scheme they were doing. The hard teams to play were the ones with all the best players. At the college level, I never felt out-schemed. We had a pretty good coaching staff that prepared us pretty well, so I never felt that we had a problem matching up with their scheme.
And what’s it like to play for Coach Hill?
It feels awesome. I really enjoyed my experience with Coach Hill. You know, he’s a hard guy to please, but he’s got your best interest in mind. He wants things done the right way and there’s no other explanation: you either do it right, or you’re doing it wrong. He taught me a lot of life lessons, and although it was hard at times and it wasn’t as easy as I wanted it to be, at the end of the day he made us better players and he made this team what it is today.
Was there ever any mention about him having coached with Bill Belichick?
All the time. Every time things got tough around Fresno, you know, he was – basically, when we started complaining, the team started grumbling about how hard we worked or what we were doing – he was always quick to say, “This is what they do at the next level.”…Basically, we run the same style practice. Everything’s the same that the Pats do, and he learned a lot of his coaching style from Coach Belichick. When you hear that perspective, you realize that, okay, we all aspire to play at the highest level. If they’re doing it at the next level, then we’re more than willing to do it at this level.
Now, you played a lot of defensive back in high school, right?
Yeah, I was a safety.
Do you think that helps you as a quarterback, to see the game from the other side of the ball?
Maybe a little bit, but back in high school, since I was a quarterback, I could play defense a lot easier, so it was more the other way around. I’m a quarterback at heart and quarterback in my mind. It was really – in high school – it was just a need that my team (had to fill), and I was able to do pretty well. I never had a chance of going on playing defense, but it was something I did in high school and had a lot of success.
Is it true that you were more of a running quarterback in high school?
Ah, a little bit. We had a funky offense, but we were definitely not a passing threat. A lot of the stuff was Wing T and misdirection. We were just a very average football team. It was one of those things that, I was a fish out of water: I was a (6-foot-5) passer that was trying to run a Wing T. So I tried to do the best I could with what little we were working with. Luckily it worked out well. I got a college scholarship, did well in college, and now I’m getting a chance to play at the next level.
Do you think that was a tough transition at all?
It was. It was, but I don’t care who you are, it’s a transition from high school to college anyways. It didn’t really matter what I ran, I needed to forget what I learned in high school and come in, start fresh, and learn the college game. That’s what I did, and that’s what helped me a lot. Because I knew so little, I was willing to learn everything from the coaches here at college, so I think it worked out to my advantage, actually.
What do you think you can do, if anything, to prepare for the next level?
You know what? It’s hard. You know, you have all this time to get ready. You want to cover every base. Every day I’m trying to get bigger and stronger and faster, trying to improve my feet, and making sure that I’m ready to take the next step, and I’m ready to do the things that are going to be asked of me in the next couple months.
And what’s your regular schedule like?
Well, at this point, I’m basically on my own. I work out when I want to work out, so I have to be disciplined in that stage and make sure I stick to my workout plan. There’s no one pushing me right now…A couple months ago I was down in Southern California with my agent and his trainer. I had more accountability, but now it’s myself, pushing myself, and I like that phase. I feel I have a harness on what I’m doing. I wake up early because I want to wake up early, because this is my dream. So it’s going well, basically, just working out and traveling a whole bunch because of a bunch of teams I have to visit and things I have to do. As busy as I am, life is good, and I’m really looking forward to knowing where I stand in April.
How are the workouts going in general?
Great. They’re kind of good. I’m working hard, seeing results, and getting better. That’s all you can really ask for when you’re training like this. Time will tell where I land. I’ll come into camp feeling really good about myself and in really good shape.
Well, Tom, thanks a lot. I really appreciate your time today.
No problem. Good talking to you.