Pickeral: Brewer Has Big Plans For UNC
By Robbi Pickeral, GoHeels.com
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- North Carolina's Gunter Brewer had the opportunity to accept a head coaching job during the offseason - was "right on the brink," he said, before ultimately changing his mind.
"I just felt like the journey wasn't complete here," said the Tar Heels' energetic wide receivers coach/passing game coordinator, "that I still had some work to do. And that I wanted to finish what I started."
This, you see, is Brewer's second time around at Kenan Stadium. From 2000-04 he served on Carl Torbush's and John Bunting's staffs, shaping the routes of receivers such as Sam Aiken, Chesley Borders and Jaworski Pollock, but coaching only in one bowl. Then last year, he returned to Chapel Hill under new head coach Larry Fedora and helped propel the Tar Heels to an 8-4 record and to the top of the Coastal Division standings.
The team was banned from the ACC championship game because of NCAA sanctions, but it reminded Brewer of what could be.
"This is a program that is capable of doing big things,'' Brewer said. "Football's important here, sports are important here, winning is important here - we have the tools and the things to prove that you can be successful here, in any sport and any academic realm. And I want to be a part of that."
Brewer has been a big part of big things before. He was the associate offensive coordinator at Marshall during the 1999 season when the Thundering Herd finished undefeated and ranked No. 10 in in the nation. He helped coach Oklahoma State (where he was on the same staff as Fedora) to five bowl games. He's pushed and propelled NFL first-rounders Randy Moss, Dez Bryant and Justin Blackmon, and has seen a slew of his other mentees play in the pros.
Coaching, though, wasn't his original goal.
The son of Billy Brewer, head coach at Mississippi from 1983-1993, Brewer said he was to looking forge his own path when he chose to transfer from junior college to Wake Forest. A self-described "possession guy who caught the ball and moved the chains," he said he was "searching for a place that had sports medicine as a degree and threw the football."
The Demon Deacons fit the bill.
Planning, eventually, to go to physical therapy school, he saw football as a way to get his degrees - and he did, in science and health sports from Wake in 1987, and then a masters in education with a specialization in exercise physiology two year later from Ole Miss. But somewhere along the way, the coaching bug hit, too. Hard.
He made stops at East Tennessee State, NE Mississippi Community College and Marshall before his first tour with the Tar Heels. "It just seemed natural,'' he said about his career path.
It looks natural, too, the way he works with wide receivers - yelling, teaching, coaxing while really coaching.
"He's got ‘it','' offensive coordinator Blake Anderson said. "He's got a personality that allows him to ... love them when he needs to, he's able to be hard on them when he needs to. He's got a really good eye for the game, the fundamentals of that position. And he's always got something new, he's always got another little wrinkle.
"Kids, they have an iPhone in one hand and music playing in another, and they're texting and tweeting and playing videos, and it takes a lot to keep their attention. And he's never been so stuck in one way of teaching that it's ever gotten boring; he keeps kids interested, in a way they understand."
So much so, Tar Heels sophomore wide receiver Quinshad Davis said, "He doesn't allow you to be average ... he has a way of bringing the best out of you."
Indeed, Brewer says the best receivers are the ones who blend God-given talent with that extra-something. It's his job to bring out that extra-extra something.
"The willingness to work you can't measure like the size of hands, or arm length, or a 40 time," Brewer said. "You try to find out, what are their competitive skills? What's their drive? What's their hot button? Do they really want to be that good, and are they willing to work for it?
"If you can combine that with the talent that we talked about, then you've got a special player."
He's coached many.
And he hopes to coach a whole lot more.
Brewer said that even when he left North Carolina the first time around, he and his wife, Rhonda, always talked about retiring to the Tar Heel state. If another opportunity calls, he would like to be a head coach somewhere, "that's one of my goals." But being back in Chapel Hill - even with a new-ish fifth floor on the football stadium, all the new buildings on campus, and the loss of Pepper's Pizza -- he says, feels like home.
"We've got big goals here,'' he said, "and I know we can accomplish them."