Jeff Brewington was afraid to sign up for Pop Warner football when he was 7, but after some encouragement from his father he has gone on to play college football for Williams, one of the most prestigious liberal arts colleges in the nation.
“I really enjoyed watching the game, but I was afraid to play when I was younger,” Brewington said. “But at the same time I was always tackling my dad in the house trying to show off how good I was at football. He signed me up one day.”
On the car ride to that first practice, Brewington described himself as “pretty rattled,” nervous of messing up or getting yelled at by a coach. But as the season went on, he found that he liked the game and the friends he made playing it.
Brewington played with the Dorchester Pop Warner Eagles for five years until eighth grade. Then he joined Boston’s METCO Program, which brings students from city neighborhoods to suburban public schools. Brewington attended Wayland High School and played football there.
Coaches and administrators were influential in Brewington’s life, he said. But his number one teacher, in sports and in life, was his dad, he said.
A high school football player himself, Brewington’s father, also named Jeff Brewington, taught his son how to be a quarterback, how to keep calm when things go awry, and kept him humble by letting him know how he could improve, the younger Brewington said.
“He was the first person and a lasting person who was always there,” he said.
Before his sophomore year at Wayland, Brewington went to the Boston College Football Camp. While there, scouts from Williams took him aside and said there could be a spot for him at the college as long as his grades stayed up to par.
“After they showed interest in me, I did my research on them and found out how great an opportunity it was to go to Williams,” Brewington said. “After that it was a no-brainer.”
Brewington switched from quarterback to wide receiver when he got to Williams, which he said opened his mind to other aspects of the game. Off the field, Brewington, now a senior, is a math and chemistry double major.
Course work takes up between four and six hours per evening, Brewington said.
“I’ve had to learn how to balance academics with athletics in an environment where both fields are very demanding,” he said.
With his football career at an end this year, Brewington is focused on the future. He hopes to go into teaching and coaching at the high school level, and is thinking about joining Teach for America.
One of his biggest memories from playing for Williams is playing in the Williams-Amherst games.
“We have this irrational hate for each other,” Brewington said of Williams and Amherst students. “We hate each other because we’re supposed to, and when we get a chance to compete and be better than them, academically or in sports, it just brings the best out of either side.”
Brewington’s time at Williams has been different than his time growing up in Dorchester. He faced challenges with local crime and robberies he found mentally and emotionally wearing, he said.
“My family and I have had possessions of ours taken from us,” Brewington said. “At times like that, it was really tough, but having to deal with those things every day at a young age helped me put life issues in perspective.”
As far as advice to others, Brewington said, “keep pressing forward” and “don’t make excuses.”
“It’s so easy to lay down and give up when the cards are stacked against you,” Brewington said. “If you keep looking for a way, you are going to find one. No excuses and don’t give up.”
Brewington’s father said he could not be happier with his son’s decision to attend Williams.
“Bryant University had offered him a full scholarship to play there and he chose Williams because it was a better school and he really thought about his future,” the older Brewington said.
Watching his son play football for Williams was an excellent experience for him, as well.
“It did my heart really good to know that he was able to play at the next level at a school where he was going to get a really good education,” he said.
He added that signing his son up for football was one of the ways he and his wife tried to keep him clear of drugs, gang activity, and other challenges that can present themselves in the neighborhoods of Dorchester.
“He’s been a kid with a good head on his shoulders,” Brewington said of his son. “He has thought beyond what you thought a kid would think; it seems he’s always seen the bigger picture at the end of it all.”