Breneman grateful for 2nd chance Minutemen gave him

  • UMass tight end Adam Breneman (81) catches a pass against South Carolina linebacker T.J. Holloman (11) in Columbia, S.C.

  • UMass tight end Adam Breneman runs for a touchdown against Boston College. GAZETTE FILE photo

  • UMass tight end Adam Breneman (81) pulls in a touchdown pass in front of Hawaii defensive back Damien Packer (21) in Honolulu. AP file photo

For the Recorder
Tuesday, October 24, 2017

AMHERST — For a guy who played home games in front of over 100,000 fans at Penn State, McGuirk’s Stadium’s 17,000 capacity has to seem tiny by comparison.

But Adam Breneman will be a little bit wistful when he plays his final game on UMass’ intimate home field against Appalachian State at 3:30 p.m. Saturday.

Saturday won’t be senior day. Minuteman coach Mark Whipple elected to have the annual ceremony at the Minutemen’s Nov. 11 game against Maine at Fenway Park, which is technically a UMass home game, rather than having it this early. But even without the ceremony, Breneman will take a second to absorb the moment.

“Saturday will be a special one for us. This place has meant so much to me,” Breneman said motioning toward the field behind him after Monday’s practice. “For my career, it’s been amazing.”

When Breneman left Penn State after knee injuries derailed all of 2014 and most of 2015 seasons, he was done with football. He had his degree and a job managing Mike Regan’s campaign for Pennsylvania State Senate.

But after guiding Regan through to a primary victory, his heart was interested and knee was willing to return to football.

He’d been close with Austin Whipple when UMass coach Mark Whipple’s son was a walk-on QB in State College and elected to continue his career at UMass.

“When I left Penn State, I didn’t know what was happening. I didn’t know if I’d play football again. This place gave me that life again. It gave me confidence again,” he said. “I owe so much to this place, Coach Whip and (tight ends) Coach (Jason) Palermo and everyone. They gave me a shot when not many people knew if I could play.”

Breneman can play. He has shown no signs of the knee problems that defined his Penn State career. Last year he caught 70 passes for 808 yards and eight touchdowns.

Despite missing one game and being less than 100 percent for all or parts of other games with a nagging ankle sprain, Breneman leads all FBS tight ends with 581 receiving yards and is second at the position with 43 catches. He’s very much in consideration for the Mackey Award for the nation’s top tight end and is a likely NFL draft choice in the spring.

The unexpected two weeks off that came from the cancelled South Florida game allowed the ankle to get back to 100 percent. He had seven catches for 81 yards, including a 1-yard touchdown that started the 55-point output in Saturday’s win over Georgia Southern to start the season’s second half.

Whipple said seeing Breneman succeed has been rewarding.

“He’s a great kid. Victories are part of it, but they joy of coaching is seeing young people and having an effect on their lives. That’s why I came back to UMass. I think we’ve helped him, and he’s certainly helped this school,” Whipple said. “He’s really helped a lot of the other guys. He’s an unselfish person. That leadership part is really important.”

Having walked away from the game once, he’s has a new appreciation for not overlooking milestone moments.

UMass has been a special place,” he said. “It’s going to be sentimental to walk out there for the last time and hopefully get a win in my last game on McGuirk.”