A starting long snapper on the football team and pre-med student graduating with a 3.92 GPA, Joey Brenner ‘20 found success at Hillsdale College. The Great Midwest Athletic Conference honored him for that achievement this summer.
Brenner was named the GMAC Male Scholar-Athlete of the Year for 2020 – 21 in June. The GMAC picks one student-athlete of each sex with an “outstanding record in athletics, scholarship and leadership” from the athletes at its 12 member institutions each year, according to a press release.
He is the first male Hillsdale student to win the award. Swimmer Victoria Addis ‘20 won the award in 2019. Brenner graduated in May with a B.S. in biochemistry and a final GPA of 3.92. He currently attends the University of Toledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences.
Brenner said winning the award was a “very cool way to wrap up things at Hillsdale.”
“I just want to thank my professors and coaches for giving me the opportunities to play football at such a great school,” Brenner said. “I’m already missing it.”
Brenner is the third football player to win the award, following Findlay’s Andrew Alten (2017) and Malone’s Austin Cary (2016).
“Joey was very deserving of this award,” assistant football coach Robert Rardin said. “I’m positive he will excel in medical school and make a fine doctor.”
Brenner came to Hillsdale in 2017 as a quarterback and switched positions to tight end, and eventually played as starting long snapper, according to head football coach Keith Otterbein.
Otterbein said he was impressed with Brenner’s ability to switch positions which required “a lot of development of new skills.”
“Joey showed great discipline, extremely high standards for his performance, and a great ability to compartmentalize the different challenges of being a top-notch student-athlete,” Otterbein said.
Brenner chose Hillsdale for the football program and said his time at the college was “the best decision I ever made.”
During his athletic practice and training, Brenner kept his academics at the forefront and stayed focus on his goal of attending medical school.
“Brenner was an extremely hard-worker and a true team player,” Rardin said. “He was one of the finest young men that I have had the priviledge to coach over my 28 year coaching career.”
He was involved with the Phi Kappa Phi, Beta Beta Beta and Sigma Zeta honoraries, and was a member of the American Chemical Society and Pre-Professional Society.
“He never let what happened on the football field affect his schoolwork, or let his schoolwork affect his play on the football field,” Otterbein said.
On top of his own success, Brenner was invested in the accomplishments of those around him, his coach said.
“Joey is someone who’s not only focused on himself but was motivated to make everyone around him better,” Otterbein said. “He put a lot of time and effort into being a mentor for younger players and helping them develop the skills and habits necessary to be a successful student-athlete.”
Otterbein points to Brenner as a reason for his team’s academic success.
“This past semester, 79 of our 103 players posted a 3.0 or better GPA, and there’s no doubt Joey’s influence and the work he put in was a big piece of that,” Otterbein said. “Joey is someone who’s not only focused on himself, but is motivated to make everyone around him better.
Brenner credits his liberal arts education with preparing him for medical school and jobs ahead.
“I’d say the classes as a whole were complete, because we had so many different things we are required to learn about,” he said. “Just judging from being out with some other professional students, they don’t have the same base as I do.”
Brenner’s advice to athletes looking to succeed on the field and in the classroom is to set goals and not worry what others are doing.
“Just do what works for you to find success,” he said. “And be comfortable with that.”