8 - The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, May 29, 2001
Michigan's new QB draws on
his South African mission and
By Steve Jacksonu Daily Sports Editor
e township of Umlazi, South
Africa will not soon forget the
words and actions of one Michi-
It was day one with members of the
Zulu tribe, and for Spencer Brinton it
would prove to be his strongest memory
of his Mormon mission to South Africa.
Brinton noticed one family that was
particularly in need of help. Without
another word, without another thought,
lie began working on their yard.
Soon a crowd of people gathered on
the adjoining hillside. People stood and
stared from windows and doorways at
the 6-5, 220-pound giant as he toiled
away at the land.
For many residents of Umlazi accus-
tomed to racial inequality, this was the
first time they had seen a white man
helping a black man in their communi-
"It was a very powerful message,"
Brinton said. "That is one story that will
always stick with me."
Even in the post-Apartheid era, huge
segregated townships still exist through-
out South Africa. In Umlazi, five mil-
lion blacks are crammed into a space
the size of Central Campus here in Ann
The selfless spirit of Brinton's actions
struck a chord with the impoverished
masses around him. His sacrifice
opened doors of communication
between people of different cultures,
enabling him to share his knowledge of
the Book of Mormon.
"It's the simple act of service," Brin-
ton said. "You go out and you help peo-
ple. You serve them rather than serving
yourself. And at the same time, you
learn a lot of things - not only about
the other people, but about yourself."
The sacrifices began before Brinton
even left the United States. When he
filled out the papers with the Church of
Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the
California native had no idea where his
missionary work would take him.
"It could have been any country, any
city in the whole world," Brinton said.
"At the very start you sacrifice your
desires of where to go."
South Africa proved to be a perfect
fit for Brinton. It provided both the
exposure to a new culture that he had
hoped for and an English-speaking pop-
ulation to make the transition easier.
"It was the best of both worlds,"
Brinton said. "I was real lucky."
Upon arriving in Africa in 1999,
Brinton began a very structured cam-
paign of service that would last for two
Every morning, Brinton hopped out
of bed at 6:30. The next two hours were
reserved for studying. After eating
breakfast, Brinton would leave his
apartment at 9:30 a.m. His service
activities would keep him busy until
9:30 at night, when he could return to
Exercise was not a part of the daily
routine, so Brinton had to sacrifice
sleep to stay in shape. He would often
rise at 5:30 a.m. to give himself time for
running, sit-ups and push-ups.
Each day, he would work to set up
appointments and schedule where and
when he would be working. But some
days the to-do list didn't fill the manda-
tory 12-hour service time. As a result,
searching for new ways to serve
became one of the biggest challenges
for Michigan's newest quarterback.
Spencer Brinton was the first quarterback to start as a true freshman at San Diego State.
"We just tried to use our time wisely,"
Brinton said. "It became really hard.
You use your faith and go out and find
something, helping others."
Brinton also had to search for cre-
ative ways to keep himself sharp for
football. He was allowed one day per
week as a "preparation day." On those
days, Brinton would do his shopping,
wash his clothes and write letters home.
But he would also throw a football
around with "slow missionaries."
Brinton said that he was just hoping
to "keep the arm loose and not be total-
ly out of sync and rusty."
THE RECRUITING TRAIL
As Brinton's missionary work in
Africa neared its conclusion, the former
San Diego State mega-recruit needed to
decide on a new school.
Communication with the United
States was at a premium in rural South
Africa, but fortunately the Mission
President allowed Brinton to speak with
head coaches from each of the schools
he was considering: Michigan, Okla-
homa, Mississippi, Arkansas and Ari-
But those conversations could only
take place once a week, so each school
only got 30 minutes of the quarterback's
A simple phone call "was my recruit-
ing trip, my letters, everything," Brinton
said with a laugh.
So what was it about that half-hour
speaking to Ann Arbor that was so spe-
cial? According to Brinton, it was the
candor of Michigan's coaching staff.
"(Offensive coordinator Stan) Parrish
and (head coach Lloyd) Carr were up-
front with everything," Brinton said. "A
lot of coaches will force-feed or try to
butter-up the situation. I knew the situa-
tion here. And they just said that
best person would play on the field."
But his real reason for choosing th
Wolverines last Aug. 12 was simple.
"Why not come to Michigan? That i
the question you should ask," Brinto
quipped. "There is so much to offe
here. When you talk about traditior
when you talk about college footbal
the first thing that pops up in your min
His experience in South Africa als
changed his perspective on acaden
which boosted Michigan's stock furthe
"Before, academics was somethin;
that I didn't take too seriously at all,
Brinton said. "But I realized that ther
is a lot more to life than football. I cal
see that you get a degree from the Uni
versity of Michigan and that means
lot, it opens alot of doors:"
True, but then another question aris
Will the real No.
7 please stand up?
All around the world
of the San Die~go State Alr t C 0partme
Spencer Brinton has chosen the No. 7 for his Michigan uniform. The same num-
ber was worn by former super-star Wolverine quarterback and current Yankee
farmhand Drew Henson.
Spencer made a point of saying that the number wasn't a coincidence.
He hopes to be included in the legacy of Michigan quarterbacks.
wild and winding
ourney to the