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Charlie Brewer may play football for the University of Utah and head coach Kyle Whittingham, but he is forever linked with Baylor and his previous coach, Matt Rhule.
When Rhule left Temple to take the head coaching position at Baylor on Dec. 6, 2016, he immediately hit the recruiting trail. Four days later, Rhule was at the Alamodome in San Antonio for a Class 6A, Division I semifinal between Atascocita and Lake Travis, which featured Brewer, a senior verbally committed to SMU.
Brewer didn’t play the entirety of that state semifinal, simply because there was no need as Lake Travis rolled to a 63-21 win.
“Everywhere I went, every high school coach I met, all they could talk about was Charlie Brewer and that he was going to SMU,” Rhule told The Salt Lake Tribune during a recent phone interview. “It sort of took on a life of its own. I got back, got a chance to watch the tape, and saw that he was just an absolute winner and a really good quarterback.”
As the story goes, Lake Travis won the Class 6A, Division I title the following week, Rhule offered him a scholarship and, after the hard sell and some debate on what to do, Brewer committed to Rhule on New Year’s Eve.
Brewer and Rhule were together in Waco for 39 games from 2017-19. The Austin, Texas, native played in 35 of those games, 31 of which were starts. If you dive into the totality of those 35 games and 31 starts, saying this particular player-coach relationship bore fruit would be a wild understatement.
“I’m in the position I’m in, being a coach in the National Football League, because he won eight games on the last drive for me,” said Rhule, who is entering his second season as head coach of the Carolina Panthers after leaving Baylor in 2019 following Brewer’s junior season. “He’ll do whatever it takes to win. He will throw his body around, he’ll will his team to victory.”
Doing whatever it takes to win and willing his team to victory are two things Utah fans, not to mention Whittingham and his staff, would gladly sign on for this fall. After 9,700 passing yards, 65 touchdowns, an appearance in a Big 12 championship game and a trip to a Sugar Bowl across four seasons at Baylor, is Brewer the missing link between Utah and an elusive Pac-12 championship? Check back in three months, but in the interim, Rhule has three years of evidence that will make one believe such large expectations are at least feasible.
Rhule was quick to offer two pieces of evidence that have stuck with him.
Oct. 14, 2017, Baylor is getting blown out at Oklahoma State, 59-16. Brewer made a brief appearance two weeks earlier at Kansas State to mark his collegiate debut, but Rhule inserting him here to replace starter Zach Smith marked his first extended action. The fact he went 3-for-7 for 41 yards and an interception is largely meaningless.
Brewer would start four games that season and come on in relief in four others. That Oklahoma State game marked the start of his career. Smith transferred to Tulsa after the season.
“I remember him putting his helmet on and walking in the game sort of like, ‘Well, I’m never coming out,’ Rhule joked. “He just has that special something you’re always looking for in your quarterback. I just always got the sense that nothing fazed him. Pressure, nothing. Nothing bothers him.”
When Brewer was a junior in 2019, Baylor’s resurgence under Rhule reached its peak. The Bears went 11-3. Two of those losses were to Oklahoma, one in the regular season by three points, the other in overtime in the Big 12 championship game, where Brewer left in the second quarter due to injury.
Midway through that season, Brewer saved that season vs. Texas Tech on Oct. 12, and Rhule’s recall on the circumstances is impressive.
Second-and-18, inside his 1-yard line, the 22nd-ranked Bears down three, 1:21 to play in the fourth quarter.
Brewer to Tresten Ebner for 20 yards, a first down, and some breathing room. Brewer runs for three yards on third-and-1, Brewer to Denzel Mims for 19 yards, Brewer to Ebner for another 27, which gets Baylor to the edge of the red zone. The drive stalls after Brewer picks up 10 yards on a run, down to the 5, but that’s OK. John Mayers’ 19-yard field goal as time expired ties the game at 20. Baylor later wins the game in double overtime, Brewer’s 18-yard pass to JaMycal Hasty preceding Hasty’s five-yard run for the 33-30 final score.
Brewer went 24 for 37 for 352 yards, and while he did throw three interceptions, he also made every play Baylor had to have at the end.
“Lots of guys can throw it, lots of guys can run it, but not everybody can go make plays when it counts,” Rhule said. “Not everybody can go win a game when it’s time to put the ball in their hands. Charlie has the insane ability to be able to go out, no matter what the situation, to find a way to score, find a way to win. You can’t measure that, there’s no stopwatch for that. Whatever it is, he has it.”
“Those are the things, those are the moments that, as a coach, you think about forever.”
Of course, the dynamic between Brewer and Rhule has had to change. Rhule left for the Panthers, Brewer played one more season at Baylor in 2020 under new head coach Dave Aranda before his transfer to Utah in December was met with great fanfare locally.
When Brewer chose Utah, Rhule says his wife, Julie, went online and bought some Utes stuff for herself and their three children. Rhule is always careful to respect the University of Utah, Whittingham and his coaching staff as the two have remained in touch, mostly with the occasional text.
Just because the dynamic has to change, that doesn’t mean the relationship has to end.
“He’s someone that, on a personal level, means a very great deal to me. He is a big part of our family,” Rhule said. “Most of my great moments at Baylor had Charlie at the helm, both on the field and off. He means a great deal to us.”