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Joey Brenner became the first male Charger to win the G‑MAC Male Scholar-Athlete of the Year
Courtesy | Hillsdale College Ath­letic Department

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.”