East Grand Rapids senior mixes athletics and politics, gains insight into both
East Grand Rapids - Brennan Bevins realizes it's a strange combination of interests, but then again maybe not when you consider the recent increased blurring of lines between the sporting and legal worlds.
Bevins, a first-year starter on a fearsome East Grand Rapids defense, said while football may be his first love, politics ranks as a close second. The undersized Bevins is a senior tackle/nose guard and is part of a Pioneer defense which has allowed just one touchdown in the last 10 quarters. He’s also a member of the school's "We The People Constitutional Studies" class which finished first in the state, ninth in the country, in a competition centered on the U.S. Constitution.
Bevins, 17, admits many of his classmates have minimal interest in politics, but he eagerly delved into that world. Bevins said he loves debate, learning how the constitution works and does everything he can to convince others that the key to politics, whatever your side, is working together to achieve everyone's interests.
After attending the Washington D.C.-based constitutional competition as a junior a year ago, Bevins said he saw too many teenagers who weren't as invested in the process as his football team. They are the opposite of Bevins, who closely follows current events such as President Donald Trump vs. NFL players’ controversy with regards to their decision whether to stand for the national anthem or not.
"You could tell a lot of people weren't interested in politics," Bevins said. "But we decided we'd give it our all. I'm not just interested, but I want to really improve my knowledge and know what the effects (of politics) are on citizens.
"I definitely think I'm outside the norm, but I'm passionate about political science. I think you should find something you're passionate about that fits and interests you and go with it."
Bevins, whose father is an attorney, said one common denominator between his political interests and playing football is that nothing is given. Politicians have to win elections and football players have to earn their spots. It's a lesson he learned as a freshman when Bevins said outsiders told him he was too small to be a football player. When he entered high school Blevins stood 5-foot-6 and weighed 140 pounds. He’s grown five inches and added 30 pounds but, physically, is still far from your prototypical high school lineman.
Blevins epitomizes a sideline-to-sideline defense that has given up just 42 points this season. The Pioneers are 5-0 and have posted back-to-back shutouts over Middleville-Thornapple-Kellogg and Wyoming, stunned then No. 1 -ranked Lowell and defeated Farmington Hills Harrison, 33-8, in the opener.
East Grand Rapids, ranked No. 6 by State Champs, has another tough test on Friday against No. 15 Grand Rapids Christian (5-0, 2-0) in an O-K Conference Gold Division game at Christian. Christian is averaging a torrid 45 points per game.
Like Bevins, the Pioneers’ defense is undersized but hardly overmatched. Defensive end Max Lundeen is the only returning starter on defense.
"That's fair to say," Bevins said of the defense lacking impressive size. "But we're fast and hard-hitting. The defense is built around small quick guys. That's a lot of it for us. We're quick and strong. If you're like that and you know what you're doing out there, you'll be successful."
Bevins said his goal was always to be a starter for the Pioneers. A year ago he was limited to special teams and spot appearances in one-sided games. Bevins has literally grown into a new role after increasing his weight-training schedule to three, sometimes four days a week.
The vexing days of Bevins being told he didn't possess the size to play varsity football are over.
"I heard that from people outside the program that I wasn't big enough, but the players and coaches always trusted me," he said. "I always thought if I understood (the system) and went hard, I would play. It's been a dream of mine since the third grade."
Bevins said he played other sports, but none captured his interest like football. It has to do with teammates and trust, competition and earning success. It's true in politics, he said, and definitely true in athletics.
"Coaches don't really give you anything. I know you have to work for it and that's my mindset. It always has been," he said.
"I did play other sports, but there's just something about football. It take each member of the team to do their job for a team to be successful. I like that."