STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) — Senior receiver Brett Brackett's top accomplishment at Penn State hasn't come on the football field.
After spending the last three years raising record amounts of money while leading a player-organized charity dedicated to fighting kidney cancer, the converted quarterback has one season left to leave a mark while in uniform.
If only he had as defined a role on offense over the last three years as he did with the Uplifting Athletes charity group. Maybe 2010, he hopes, will be his best season yet after being moved from the outside to the H-back/slot receiver role he played in his sophomore campaign.
At 6-foot-6, Brackett has the height and experience to provide a scrambling quarterback with a big receiving target. He could be more valuable as a short yardage or red zone option this fall as the Nittany Lions work in a new starting quarterback to replace Daryll Clark. Sophomores Kevin Newsome and Matthew McGloin are the top candidates.
The receivers have been throwing the ball around with the quarterbacks a little more than usual to help build rhythm on offense.
"Every single day that we possibly can, just to work on timing," Brackett said last week before the "Lift for Life" charity weightlifting event. "It's a question mark to people, but we think it's something that can be capitalized, and can be a strength on our team this year."
He's not quite a top threat to catch the ball, though. After one catch his freshman season, Brackett had career-highs of 13 receptions for 180 yards in 2008, when he was stuck on the depth chart behind the star receiving trio of Derrick Williams, Deon Butler and Jordan Norwood.
Last year, he caught just three passes for 13 yards and a touchdown, while new starters Derek Moye and Graham Zug emerged as top receiving threats, along with Chaz Powell. Brackett, though, developed a reputation as a reliable blocker, especially on short-yardage situations.
He'll still be pressed for time, even with Powell having been moved to defensive back. A plethora of young receivers are waiting for expanded roles, including sophomores Justin Brown, Curtis Drake and Devon Smith.
Perhaps more importantly for Brackett, he's viewed as a leader on a team that will be inexperienced at one very important position — quarterback. Brackett, of Lawrenceville, N.J., has experience at quarterback, after having excelled at the position while in high school.
"I've really tried to help a lot of the young guys just learn the ways to win in the Big Ten," said Brackett, referring to the Nittany Lions' consecutive 11-win seasons. "We need to relay that to the young guys. You don't just win 11 games by stepping on the field ... you really have to work hard in the offseason."
That's where the Lift for Life event comes in, the grueling annual player get-together in which Nittany Lions gathered in humid Holuba Hall on a 90-degree day to pound through sets on weight machines, flip over tractor-trailer tires and pull weighted sleds.
"This is real tough, it's super tough. After a couple runs, your legs get tired, your knees ...," linebacker Gerald Hodges said Friday during the event before trailing off. "You just got to keep pushing through it."
Brackett's four-person lifting team, which included Hodges, linebacker Michael Zordich and defensive end Jack Crawford, won the challenge. The event drew more than 3,000 fans and raised a record $98,400 for the Kidney Cancer Association.
"If we can leverage our notoriety and media attention as football players to help," Brackett said, "to me that's the ultimate thing."
Uplifting Athletes: http://upliftingathletes.org/chapters/chapter-psu