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May 19, 2014

Fresh Facts: Brenon Thrift

OwlScoop.com's Fresh Facts series, one that provides a lighter look at Temple's 2014 recruiting class, continues with Brenon Thrift, one of three players from Gateway High School to sign with the Owls.

Thrift, a 6-foot-3, 230-pound linebacker/defensive end, tallied 102 tackles, 16 sacks and a fumble recovery as a senior, following up a junior season that saw him collect 7.0 sacks and 10.5 tackles for a loss. He'll have a pair of familiar faces with him when he arrives this summer for preseason camp, joining fellow Gateway teammates Anthony Davis and Delvon Randall.

In a lengthy Fresh Facts interview, Thrift talked about - among other things - his love of Air Jordans and horoscopes, expanded upon his appreciation of John Candy movies, and explained to us why he's already been working at his dream job for two years and how it contributed to his Twitter handle.

And he can meticulously break down the ingredients of a Primanti Bros. sandwich and explain why he prefers Pittsburgh cuisine to that of a Philly cheesesteak.

John DiCarlo: Let's start with a basic football question first regarding your decision to commit to and sign with Temple. I know Delvon committed first, then you and then finally Anthony. What led you to pick Temple?

Brenon Thrift: "Originally, it was my (former high school) coach, Coach Terry Smith (who was Temple's wide receivers coach at the time). I got a chance to meet the rest of the staff, get acclimated and meet Coach Rhule. I'm all about loyalty and staying loyal to the game, and I wanted to prove to Temple that I wanted to be there."

JD: What other offers did you have?

BT: "West Virginia, Michigan … I had a couple of MAC offers - Bowling Green. Pitt came in late and came out to visit me, stuff like that."

JD: Wow. West Virginia and Michigan offers?

BT: "Yep. (Michigan offensive line) Coach Funk (offered him)."

JD: When you, Delvon and Anthony committed to Temple, stayed committed and signed, it was a big deal for Temple to get three players from Pittsburgh who had high major offers like yours. Do you guys get a sense of what that means out here to the fans and the buzz it helped create with this recruiting class?

BT: "I see all the fans on Twitter going crazy on the message boards and stuff where Owls fans are commenting and stuff like that, and they seem to be really excited. They know that them Gateway boys are coming and we're going to put on a show for them."

JD: When Terry Smith left to join the staff at Penn State, what was going through your mind? Because this is your former high school coach who was big in getting you guys to come to Temple and now he's leaving.

BT: "Honestly, the first thing that went through my mind was, 'I might be going to Penn State now.' That was in the air. But Coach T gave me a phone call and told me to stay loyal. He knows that Coach Rhule took time out of their day and came on strong in recruiting me and really wanted me on their team. And my Dad told me to stay loyal, too."

JD: That's interesting to hear, because the recruiting process gets crazier these days with so many coaching changes, and I suppose at the end of the day, even if Temple fans would have been upset to see you guys decommit, no one could blame you guys for changing your minds if that's what happened. But you stayed loyal. Do you think that's a rare trait these days?

BT: "Yeah, I think so. There's really not that much loyalty in the game anymore. People can turn their back on you at any time - talk bad about players, then they lose offers. It's bad out there. So when they were loyal to me, it was important for me to stay loyal to Temple."

JD: Tell me about this shoe bet with Anthony wanting Delvon's blue Jordans and Delvon telling Anthony that he could have them if he committed to Temple. Is that to say those shoes should have a place on the Temple staff as an assistant coach? Because it looks like it worked.

BT: (Laughs) "Not really. That was more of a play thing. But us Gateway boys, we're very high on our Jordans and all the latest Jordans that are out there."

JD: Speaking of shoes, you told me earlier this week that your Twitter handle, @mr_finishline, comes from you working at a Finish Line store in a mall out there. Do people really call you Mr. Finish Line?

BT: (Laughs again) "That's a nickname out here in Pittsburgh. That's what everybody calls me. I'm the shoe man. I'm the guy to know if you need your Jordans, your Free Runs, your Air Maxs - any shoes you need. By the way, what shoes do you like to wear?"

JD: Now that I'm in my 30s, anything that will make my back and knees feel better. I actually have a pair of black Air Maxs that I really like, and I have a blue pair of Nike Frees and a red pair of Nike Dual Fusions, so I guess you could say I'm a Nike guy, too. But I could use a new pair - maybe some Shocks.

BT: "You like Shocks? I'm a fan of Shocks, too."

JD: What happens, unfortunately, is when you get older and have a mortgage to pay, you start spending less and less on shoes.

BT: (Laughs) "I hear you."

JD: I used to live out there and have some friends out there. I'm visiting this summer. Maybe I'll buy my next pair from you when I'm out there.

BT: "Yes, sir! I'll help you out."

JD: I appreciate that. How's the job? You must really love it if you made it your Twitter handle.

BT:"I've had the job for two years now. It's my dream job. It's always been my dream to work at a shoe store. I used to wait in the lines for the Jordan releases when everyone would go crazy. I just got tired of waiting in the lines and thought, 'I could get me a job here and hold my own sneakers.'

JD: That makes sense. How many pairs of shoes do you actually own?

BT: "Seventy-one, if you want the exact number."

JD: You have 71 pairs of shoes? Where do you keep them all?

BT: "I've got a big cupboard that's downstairs in a storage area."

JD: Do your parents get on your case and maybe say, 'Listen, Brenon, it's time to get rid of some of these'?

BT: "All the time, but I can't let them go. They're collector's editions."

JD: What's your favorite pair?

BT: "I'd probably have to say the (Nike Air Jordan) Concords."

JD: Why those?

BT: "(Jordan) wore them in a playoff game against … I think it was the Wizards. They have black patent leather with the white mesh. I wore them playing basketball this year and hooped in them, too."

JD: So I'm guessing that Michael Jordan has to be your favorite basketball player?

BT: "He's my dad's favorite. I'm a LeBron (James) fan."

JD: Getting back to Twitter, there's a lot on your timeline about horoscopes. Are you a big astrology guy? Do you believe in that stuff?

BT: "Yes, I am. I'm a Sagittarius."

JD: On game days, have you ever had a horoscope that made you think you were going to have a great game?

BT: "Yeah, I had one against McKeesport."

JD: What did it say?

BT: "You are bound for success throughout your life. Something like that. Just take it day by day, step by step."

JD: So what happened against McKeesport?

BT: "I went off in that game, but we got blown out. I mean, I showed up."

JD: A couple of sacks and TFLs?

BT: "I had a couple sacks. I've got that one play on my highlight tape where I leap over a guy. My teammate got blocked, and I had to hop over him. It was on TV. It was on Root Sports. It was like a Superman move. I Superman-ed over him."

JD: Between you, Delvon and Anthony, who's the best player?

BT: (Laughs) "Of course, I'd say I am. Well, really, we all play different positions, so you really can't say."

JD: I'm looking at your Signing Day bio that Temple put together, and it says your nickname is Baby Hulk. Can you explain that?

BT: "I was always really big when I was little, so my mom and dad always used to call me Baby Hulk. My grandmother, my nana - they did, too."

JD: Do people still call you that?

BT: "Sometimes, if we're all joking around and laughing."

JD: So it would have almost been a disappointment if you didn't play football with that nickname. You had no choice, right?

BT: "Nope. I've been playing football since I was four years old."

JD: The Signing Day bio also says your favorite movie is Planes, Trains and Automobiles. Is that right?

BT: "Yes, sir! John Candy!"

JD: That's an impressive pick for someone who was born in 1994. You weren't even alive when that movie came out. What makes it your favorite?

BT: "My dad got me down on it. He always plays it on Christmas Day. That movie's hilarious. When he brings his feet out and takes his shoes off and says, 'My dogs sure are barking!' … (laughs)."




JD: That is a good line. Is that your favorite scene?

BT:"Yeah, that's my favorite scene. That, and the one about the shower curtain rings."

JD: The Darryl Strawberry earrings! They're filled with helium, so they're light.

BT: "(Laughs) That's it. That was funny, too."

JD: You played basketball, too. How did your season go? What position do you play?

BT: "I played the 'three' or the 'four.' I was a small forward. We went to the second round of the (WPIAL) playoffs and we lost (to Kiski Area). It was a nail biter. I also played with Delvon. He almost dropped 40 (37) in that last game."

JD: I read about that. Delvon's a 'two' guard?

BT: "He's a 'one' (point guard) or a 'two.' And (another Gateway football standout) Montae Nicholson was in that game for us, too. He's going to Michigan State."



JD: A lot of coaches have talked about how they'll go and watch a football recruit play basketball to see how he does. Does playing basketball help you with football?

BT: "Sure. It can help with your footwork, and it can definitely give you that bounce - that extra bounce that you need. Because I noticed that I tried to dunk earlier in the season. And then toward the end, I started getting more ups and I accelerated and dunked."

JD: Was this the first year you were able to dunk?

BT: "Nah. I was able to dunk when I was a freshman. I was, like, maybe 6-2 and real light. I was about 200 pounds and it was really easy for me to dunk. And then I got bigger and kind of stopped playing basketball and I didn't really try to dunk. And then senior year, as the season went on, I started dunking again."

JD: Explain to a 6-foot guy with a limited vertical leap what it feels like to dunk.

BT: "It feels amazing!"

JD: So you were able to do it in a few games this year?

BT: "In one game."

JD: Did you dunk over someone? Was it on a breakaway?

BT: "Nah, it was on a steal. I just stole the ball, fast break and threw down a light little one-hand dunk."

JD: What did you do after that? Did you celebrate?

BT: "Ha! They called a timeout, so I went up to Delvon and did a chest bump."

JD: Have you lived in Pittsburgh your whole life?

BT: "Yes, sir. Penn Hills, Monroeville area."

JD: What's better -- A Primanti Bros. sandwich or a Philly cheesesteak?

BT: "That's a tough one, man. (Pauses) I'd have to say Primanti Bros."

JD: Is it the fries in the sandwich? The coleslaw?

BT: "It's definitely the sweetness of the 'slaw and the saltiness of the fries. It all blends in and blends together."

JD: Eagles or Steelers?

BT: "Aww, again? Steelers. It's a no-brainer! We just got that D-end (in the draft out of Notre Dame), Stephon Tuitt."

JD: How do you think they did in the draft?

BT: "Well, in the first round, I think they should have gotten that cornerback out of Michigan State (Darqueze Dennard, who went 24th to the Cincinnati Bengals). He's a beast. But I like Tuitt. That's a come-up for them."

JD: Pirates or Phillies?

BT: "Yeah, Pirates over the Phillies, definitely. Andrew McCutchen!"

JD: Be honest with me - have you been a Pirates fan your whole life, or did you just start rooting for them last year when they got good?

BT: "I was kind of forced to watch them my whole life. That's all my dad watched was Pirate games."

JD: Does he ever talk about the heartache from those three-straight NLCS losses to the Reds and the Braves?



BT: "Mmmhmm … he still watches them."

JD:I can kind of tell already from talking to you, but I'll ask anyway. Did you ever pick up the Pittsburgh accent? Do you say pop instead of soda? Giant Iggle instead of Giant Eagle?

BT: "I definitely have the Pittsburgh accent. When I went down there on my official (visit), when you mess with them Jersey guys and Philly guys, they're like, 'What'd you say?' They asked me what some words meant and stuff like that."

JD: OK, trivia time. Can you tell me how many bridges Pittsburgh has?

BT: "Hmm … let's see. Monongahela …"

JD: I cheated and looked it up.

BT: "I'd have to say four."

JD: You're way off. Believe it or not, it's 446.

BT: "Oh, you mean altogether? I thought you just meant the main bridges. Gotcha."

JD: What's been your favorite part of growing up out there?

BT: "It's a blue-collar city. It's full of hard workers. They love their sports. You've got that Western PA football."

JD: Do you stay in touch with the other recruits?

BT: "I've kind of built a little bit of a relationship with Shamir (Bearfield) and (Frank) Nutile."

JD: We just talked to him for this series. He was the first guy to commit to Temple from this class and he was almost like another assistant coach with the way he tried to recruit guys on social media, on Twitter. Did he try to recruit you, too?

BT: "Yeah, he was asking me if I was on board with him when I still hadn't made my decision. But he definitely reached out to me."

JD: You also tweeted recently, 'Can't wait til my draft day.' Tell Temple fans why you think you're eventually going to get drafted to play in the NFL and when you'll get drafted.

BT: "First or second round. First or second round, definitely. If you get into that third or fourth round, you're not guaranteed that big check."

JD: And who do you want to play for?

BT: "Whoever's paying the most money. That's where I'm going."

JD: Fair enough. What do you want Temple fans to know about you that they may not know already?

BT: "I'm energetic, a well-balanced guy. I come from a good family. I love the game of football. I eat, sleep and drink football. I'm definitely going to try my hardest to get us into a bowl game and play my heart out. I just want the Temple fans to show me the same love (the program) showed me."

JD: What do you think it's going to be like to play with Delvon and Anthony again for the next four years in college? I guess that's a bit of a rare thing to be able to play with two of your high school teammates at the next level.

BT: "It's going to be really crazy. A lot of people were hating on that because you had three of the Gateway guys going to the same college, but it's definitely going to be exciting. I'm not going to be there by myself. I'm going to have two guys to lean on."

JD: If you had to explain to someone who had never seen them play, how would you describe Delvon and Anthony on the football field?

BT: "Well, Delvon, he just comes through in the clutch. You tell him that we need a touchdown, he's going to get it for us. If he's out there on kick returns and I say, 'I want this to the crib,' he's taking it to the crib.

"If I tell AD I want a big hit, he's going to give me a big hit. He just comes out of nowhere with interceptions. They're just both playmakers."

JD: When you come in as freshman, you basically have about three or four weeks of preseason camp to learn enough of that defense to maybe get into that first game as a true freshman. How badly do you want to be on that trip in August to play in the season opener down at Vanderbilt and be playing on national TV on ESPN and the SEC Network?

BT: "Well, I'm coming in saying I am the starting defensive end playing against Vanderbilt on national TV. I'm just not used to being on the bench. I've started since I was a freshman, so I'm just not used to it. If I don't see myself on the field, then something's wrong and I'll just have to go harder."

OwlScoop.com editor John Di Carlo can be reached at jgdicarlo@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @OwlScoop_com or @jdicarlo.

Follow Brenon Thrift on Twitter @Mr_finishline.

Front page photo courtesy of Brenon Thrift.


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