Charlie Brewer grew up in Texas, a state that loves its football at all levels, and in a home where quarterbacking acts as the family business.
He is the youngest son and the third of Robert and Laura Brewer’s three children. His older brother, Michael, starred for Texas high school power Lake Travis, about 20 miles outside of Austin, before playing at Texas Tech and Virginia Tech. Robert Brewer famously walked on at Texas and was the MVP of the 1982 Cotton Bowl. Robert’s father, Charles, started at QB for the Longhorns in 1953 and 1954, and is a 1998 inductee of the Texas High School Hall of Fame. Charlie’s uncle on his mother’s side is former Texas quarterback Rob Moerschell.
Based on destiny and DNA, one could surmise Charlie Brewer was preordained to play quarterback, too.
This, even though he fell in love with football as a running back, even before a ninth-grade growth spurt, even as he was overlooked as a high school recruit playing for one of the elite programs in the state of Texas.
And if you believe in destiny, consider this: With the 2021 season coming into focus and Brewer having transferred to the University of Utah, is he destined to be the Utes’ starting quarterback this fall?
Following his older brother
As far as football goes, Robert Brewer says his youngest son, Charlie, was “that kid”.
“That kid” was a fearless running back who played bigger than he was as soon as he was old enough to begin playing Pop Warner in Austin.
“He was very small when he was young, so we were worried about him early on,” Robert Brewer said in a recent telephone interview. “He would run into the middle of everybody. He wasn’t big enough to have that attitude, though.”
“That kid” switched positions in the sixth grade, a decision Robert says was entirely up to Charlie, and so began the story of the Brewer family’s next great quarterback.
“That kid” wore his brother Michael’s jersey on the sideline during high school games, helped his brother warm up pregame. He would show up at practices, he was engaged with all of it. As Lake Travis rose to annual contention in Texas Class 4A, Michael Brewer was in the middle of it. A part of three state-title winners, Michael was the starter on two of them in 2009 and 2010. Charlie was in the middle of it, too, as a ballboy for the team and head coach Chad Morris.
Lake Travis has become something of a quarterback factory over the last decade, so before Michael, Charlie watched Garrett Gilbert run roughshod over opposing defenses. After Michael graduated and went to Texas Tech, Baker Mayfield took control of the Lake Travis offense to big numbers and bigger reviews.
“He grew up around it, around all the guys that played quarterback before me,” Michael Brewer said. “Garrett, myself, then Baker after that. Growing up around those guys, playing ball in the front yard, he was exposed to it from such an early age and for such a long time. He really didn’t grow until probably after his freshman year of high school (in 2013-14). He was kind of a little guy, so it’s kind of hard to play quarterback if you don’t have some size.
“He hit a growth spurt, his arm got stronger, things started coming together and that’s when it was, OK, he’s going to be the next one.”
Charlie was bumped up to the Lake Travis varsity as a sophomore in 2014. He started a couple of games early in the season, he saw the field during the postseason, the Cavaliers falling early in the playoffs after moving up for the first time to 6A, the largest classification in Texas.
The starter on that 2014 team, Dominic De Lira, was a senior, off to Iowa State. The starting job belonged to Charlie moving forward, just as it once belonged to his older brother.
Two different Charlie Brewers
The media covering Utes football has had a limited amount of time to speak to Brewer. Once during spring practice, another few minutes after a 15-for-15, 151-yard showing in the spring game, and that was it.
In those two Zoom sessions, Brewer did not so much as crack a smile. His answers were direct, usable, and he was perfectly polite, but he did not show much interest in diving any deeper than he had to.
If this was all you had to go off of, you might think Brewer was standoffish. Those close to Brewer don’t disagree that his public persona may resonate in that manner, but they say that isn’t who he really is.
“He’s not the big personality like Baker, but there was a quiet confidence that kids just gravitate towards,” said Gordon Butler, who became Lake Travis’ principal when Charlie was a senior in 2016-17. “He doesn’t have to be the center of attention, but wherever he is, that’s where the crowd is. People wanted to be around him. I think kids thrived off that. I think what still stands out about Charlie is that he is just a cool customer, man. That kid doesn’t get rattled by much. It doesn’t matter what’s going on around him, his demeanor never changes. People can take that for being nonchalant, but he’s just not fazed by pressure.”
Added Lake Travis head coach Hank Carter: “He’s a competitor, but just a very funny kid. A very social guy with his teammates, but not a real vocal guy in terms of the media, but honestly, that’s been drilled into him for many years. He understands what to say, what not to say, but he really is a funny kid. Also, a tough-as-nails competitor. He’s always been that way, and it has served him well.”
In a lighthearted moment talking about interests outside of football, Robert Brewer joked Charlie is “swimming in a pretty shallow gene pool when it comes to academics,” but swiftly noted that his son takes care of his classroom responsibilities and graduated from Baylor.
Charlie is a golfer, a hunter, a fisherman, an outdoorsman. Both Michael and Charlie noted he is a jokester with a group of friends who are jokesters.
“He’ll deadpan you, but he likes to laugh,” Robert said. “He’s a social creature. He doesn’t have a large group of friends, but certainly a very close group of friends.”
“There was nothing until the end, then there were fireworks.”
Charlie’s recruitment out of Lake Travis was, as his dad put it, “crickets until the very end.”
As a junior in 2015, he threw for over 3,400 yards, 42 touchdowns, and just five interceptions as the Cavaliers went 15-1, falling in the Class 6A, Division II title game. He had the numbers, he had the huge high school pedigree at a place consistently churning out FBS quarterbacks, but he didn’t have the size, so his Power Five options were limited.
His brother’s old high school coach, Chad Morris, was the head coach at SMU at the time, so Morris leveraged that relationship into a May 2016 verbal commitment from Charlie, months before his senior season began. Robert Brewer will say Charlie committed earlier than he wanted to, but Carter wanted the recruitment finished and out of the way by a certain time, so Charlie wanted to honor that.
Utah was interested early in the process but never offered. Texas was in there early, too, but wound up taking another Austin-area star for its 2017 recruiting class, Westlake’s Sam Ehlinger.
The Longhorns, for what it’s worth, never offered a scholarship.
“We understood that. There was no bitterness there,” Robert said. “It happens a lot.”
“It’s one of those things where Charlie and Baker dealt with the same deal,” Carter said. “Physically, they’re late-bloomers. I don’t remember what he weighed in high school, but he wasn’t 6-3 and was still physically maturing. Those types of guys don’t get offered a ton, and that was the deal with Charlie.”
On Dec. 6, 2016, with it looking to emerge from a sexual assault scandal under former head coach Art Briles’ watch, Baylor hired Temple head coach Matt Rhule.
Four days later, Rhule was at the Alamodome in San Antonio for a Class 6A, Division I semifinal between Lake Travis and Atascocita.
As a point of reference, while 6A is the largest classification, Division I comprises the largest enrollments within 6A. Winning a 6A, Division I title means, more times than not, you’re the best team in Texas, and likely one of the 15 or 20 best teams in the country.
By this time, Michael Brewer was out of college, back home in Texas and able to watch the latter stages of Charlie’s high school career unfold. As Michael remembers it, Rhule only stayed for roughly the first quarter, but in that time, Charlie scored on a short keeper and threw one of his five touchdown passes. He finished the 63-21 win 26-for-32 for 261 yards and five touchdown passes.
Garrett Gilbert, Baker Mayfield, and Michael Brewer all won state titles at Lake Travis, but none of those came in 6A, Division I. On Dec. 17, Charlie engineered a one-sided 41-13 win over The Woodlands to grab his state title, the capper to a 15-1 season.
The next day, Rhule complicated things by offering Charlie, whose 77.3% completion percentage in 2016 set the national high school record.
“Franky, his mom and I gave some resistance because we didn’t know what would happen at Baylor,” Robert Brewer said. “Briles had just been fired and the assumption was there would be penalties coming down, which never happened. Charlie wanted to commit to Baylor the next day, but we wanted him to wait three or four days.”
Charlie waited almost two weeks, committing to Rhule and the Bears on New Year’s Eve.
“Coach Morris was not happy to hear him decommit, which I got to hear the brunt of, but that’s just how it goes,” Carter said.
An all-time career, and time for a change
Charlie’s numbers and accomplishments at Baylor are well-documented. Four-year starter, 9,700 yards, second player in program history with over 10,000 total yards, 65 passing touchdowns, a robust 138.1 QB rating across 44 career games. The Bears played in the Big 12 championship game when Brewer was a junior in 2019, advancing to that season’s Sugar Bowl.
Between Rhule leaving for the Carolina Panthers following that 2019 season, LSU associate head coach Dave Aranda getting the job and ushering in a new system, and the COVID-19 pandemic drastically interrupting the 2020 season, Charlie was ready for a change.
“We were trying to get him to reconsider that, but he was definite,” Robert Brewer said. “He was definite before the season was over. He wanted to make sure he gave everything he had while he was there, but there was no talking him out of even considering that.
“He loved playing for the guy that recruited him.”
On Dec. 14, Charlie entered the NCAA Transfer Portal, making himself available, essentially as a free agent, to be courted as a prospect with one year of immediate eligibility remaining.
“We reached out to him the second we found out he was in the portal,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. “He had interest from the get-go, and he seemed to know a lot about our program, at least that’s what he expressed to me. We had an opportunity for him, we had really no established starter coming in. Cam (Rising) won the job last year, but got injured in the first game, early in the first game, so we had no established starter, so it was an opportunity for him to come in and compete.”
Six days after entering the portal, Brewer committed to Whittingham to great fanfare locally. As Whittingham alluded to, Rising won the job in 2020, but suffered a season-ending right shoulder injury early in the Nov. 20 opener. Jake Bentley took over for the remainder of the five-game season, but that wasn’t going to be the long-term answer. Bentley later hit the portal, committing to South Alabama, and with Rising injured and unavailable, in came Brewer, in time for the second semester and spring practice.
“I wasn’t surprised by that decision because that’s a great program,” Carter said. “They’re known for playing great defense and being tough on offense. Coming out of the Big 12, I think a lot of the knock on quarterbacks, or even offenses as a whole, is that you’re playing in a different type of league. I think Charlie wanted an opportunity to go play at another program that would be competitive.”
In normal, non-pandemic conditions, Utah spring practice would be open to the media, which would have offered an opportunity to see Brewer 15 times. With the vaccine rollout in its infancy at the time of spring ball, access was limited to the aforementioned Zoom calls, so here is what we know for sure.
The only public viewing of Brewer came during that 15-for-15, 151-yard spring game effort. The playbook wasn’t opened up all the way, so Brewer was connecting on mostly short and medium stuff, with a shot or two down the field, but at a bare minimum, it was a hugely optimistic opening effort for Utah fans to absorb.
More importantly, Whittingham, who usually goes out of his way to be calculated and even-keeled when discussing personnel, was quite effusive in his praise of Brewer throughout spring ball. In the recent past, he has not spoken that way of Rising, and he did not speak that of Bentley.
All of this leads to the stage being set for a quarterback competition between Brewer and Rising, who is expected to be at full strength and ready to go for fall camp. Utah has not announced a start date for camp, but with FBS programs able to begin practicing 29 days before their respective openers, that means the Utes can begin Aug. 4, 29 days before their Sept. 2 opener vs. Weber State.
“The guys that we’ve had here in the past were very talented, but did not have the established career that Charlie has had,” Whittingham said. “He’s the second-most prolific passer in Baylor history, threw for almost 10,000 yards, so there was not a lot of guesswork here.
“The more I got to know Charlie, the more research we did on him as far as his leadership, toughness, competitiveness, it all lined up and seemed to be a very good get for what we try to do here at Utah.”
With a long-established M.O. on offense of running the ball and controlling the clock, it seems clear that Whittingham believes he has found something significant at quarterback. Can Brewer beat out Rising and start for Utah in his lone season in Salt Lake City? Beyond that, is Brewer the missing link between the Utes and finally getting over the hump to win a Pac-12 championship?
Time will tell, but DNA, not to mention destiny, are on his side.