Determined Sam Brincks Living Dream with Hawkeyes

August 29, 2018

Written by Rob Howe

IOWA CITY, Iowa – It wasn’t pretty. All 235 pounds of true freshman scout-teamer Sam Brincks was smacking up against Iowa’s starting offensive tackles Brandon Scherff and Andrew Donnell.

It was a blowout, a mismatch, one-sided. It was discouraging.

Brincks walked on after a standout high school career at Carroll (IA) Kuemper. He could have played at a smaller college, but the dream was performing for the home-state Hawkeyes on the game’s biggest stage.

He overcame those early beatings at the hands of Scherff and Donnell, two guys now playing in the NFL. He’s pushed his body up to 282 pounds and will be starting at defensive tackle on Saturday (2:30 p.m. CT, BTN) when Iowa’s opens its season against Northern Illinois at Kinnick Stadium.

“If you asked about guys that have improved, Sam certainly, to me, is in the top of the list,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said.

Brincks (6-5) moved from defensive end in the spring. which makes his ascension into a starting position even more impressive. He showed humility when finding out he would be making his first career start.

“I’m just excited. But at the end of the day, we want to win the game. That’s the most important thing,” he said.

It’s been a long road. When he was getting run over by Scherff and Donnell, he questioned whether or not he could make it at this level. He wasn’t the only one.

“I’m not sure I saw it the first year quite frankly,” Ferentz said. “Not that I didn’t see him as a good kid; I’m not saying he wasn’t, but he was (just) okay out there.”

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Defensive line coach Reese Morgan saw it. He uncovered Brincks in high school. Brincks wasn’t about to give up.

“You just work at it and try to get better every day and hopefully one day you’re in a position to contribute,” he said.

Jodi and Rick Brincks raised their son to be confident and chase his dreams. He relied on those lessons during the last four years.

“Mental toughness was a big thing in my house. I think just coming here with a never-going-to-quite attitude was kind of the main thing for me,” he said.

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He first felt like he belonged at the beginning of the 2016 season. Starting end Parker Hesse missed time with an injury and Morgan called on Brincks to receive some reps. He graded out well in a limited role.

“I didn’t make a ton of plays but I felt confident and I felt I could get better and start doing some things,” he said.

He continued developing physically. It happened gradually with weight training and a healthy diet. He came into his junior season ready to contribute.

Morgan thought enough of Brinck’s progress that he felt comfortable moving Matt Nelson from end to tackle last spring. Brincks ended up in a four-man rotation on the outside during ’17. He registered 19 tackles (five solo). He added a tackle for loss and broke up a pass.

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In the spring, with younger players emerging at end, Morgan asked Brincks to move inside. He took to the new position, which turned out to be very important. Cedrick Lattimore and Brady Reiff, who were in the defensive tackle rotation last season, were suspended for the first game.

“It’s been a pretty smooth transition,” Brincks said. “A lot of the fundamentals translate from end to tackle. I’ve been watching film on defensive tackles for the last four years.”

Nelson helped with the move, having made it himself a year earlier. Brincks watched film of former Hawkeye tackles Nathan Bazata and Jaleel Johnson, extracting information on how to line up, read keys and identify formations.

“He did a nice job last year, and I think he’s taken a big step since that time,” Ferentz said. “He’s got an unbelievable attitude, very unselfish, and he’s really cognizant of technique, works hard on it, and he plays hard.

“So he’s a really dependable guy, and I think probably better than we give him credit for. I think he’s just getting better and better with every snap out there.”

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