Next week, the Beacon will publish its 10th annual winter edition of Best of Preps, a reoccurring feature that showcases local high school athletes. The first Best of Preps, in 2008, had a face familiar to even casual Flathead sports fans: Brock Osweiler.
A junior at Flathead High at the time, Brock was pictured easily palming a basketball. It was likely the last photo taken of him in a basketball uniform. He sat out his senior season, choosing to focus solely on football, a surprise to fans and journalists who had witnessed his rapid ascension through high school basketball’s ranks.
At age 15, Brock verbally committed to play college basketball at Gonzaga. He remains one of the finest high school basketball players I’ve ever seen in Montana. But the truth is that football offered his best shot at the pros. He had the foresight and self-awareness as a teenager to recognize that.
Brock, of course, did go on to play in the NFL after the Denver Broncos drafted him in the second round out of Arizona State University in 2012. Filling in for the aging and injured Peyton Manning during the Broncos’ 2015-2016 Super Bowl run, Brock often looked like a worthy heir to Manning’s throne. After a dramatic comeback victory over the New England Patriots, Sports Illustrated splashed him on its regional cover with the headline, “Brock On!” The future was bright.
We know what happened next. Brock declined Denver’s offer in favor of signing a lucrative contract with the Houston Texans. Then he struggled, often mightily, in his first season with the Texans. Once considered the new face of Houston’s franchise, he was traded unceremoniously last week to the Cleveland Browns, a consistently inept organization with a reputation as pro football purgatory. Worse, the Browns were expected to dump Brock without playing him.
Contrary to the tenor of most articles and columns, which read like postmortems, I don’t think Brock’s shot at a starting gig is gone. From the first time I interviewed him while covering sports for the Beacon, when he was an articulate teenage man-child, it was clear that he had a grand vision for himself, along with the physical tools and personality to execute it. He already spoke like an NFL quarterback. And he trained like one, including long hours of watching film.
When I wrote a profile of Brock in 2008, I included an anecdote about him as a boy destroying footballs by relentlessly throwing them at walls and trees, through tires and against bounce-back nets, over and over again, day after day, machine-like. As a 10-year-old, he played basketball outside in winter, with frozen fingers, for hours on end. In third grade, unprompted by parents, he posted a list of goals in his bedroom and looked at it daily.
That drive to improve and succeed isn’t gone. While there are valid debates about Brock’s mechanics and decision-making under pressure, there’s no questioning that he’ll resolutely strive to remedy his faults, as considerable as they appeared this past season. Obviously, determination and work ethic alone don’t complete passes, but they help.
John Elway saw a legitimate NFL starting quarterback when he drafted Brock. I trust Elway’s initial assessment, even if Brock hasn’t offered much supporting evidence recently. He’s smart, talented and ambitious. Even in the merciless business of pro football, that’s a good formula for landing on your feet.