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Stranger than Fiction: A Q&A with Cal center Mark Brazinski

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Summer Managing Editor

OCTOBER 17, 2013

Mark Brazinski isn’t the Most Interesting Man in the World, but he might tell you he is. He’s the head of the ghost-hunting committee at his fraternity. His favorite project as an information systems graduate student was a 40-page deliverable he and a team wrote on the feasibility of building the Death Star. He also happens to be the starting center for the Cal football team.

Brazinski grabbed the starting center spot when Chris Adcock was ruled out for the year Oct. 5. Thrust into starting action for the first time in his Bears career, Brazinski is making the most of his final year of eligibility. On Monday, I sat down with him. On a bench in the shadows of Memorial Stadium, Brazinski opened up, gazing out at the Campanile in the distance.

On his dream: “I’d like to play football for the Pittsburgh Steelers.”

On his backup plan: “I want to do something that’s very intellectually stimulating. A lot of problem solving. If possible, I wouldn’t wear a suit. But that’s optional.”

On some of the best advice from his brother Brian, a former offensive lineman at Penn: “He would give me advice, and it would always be physics-based. He would say, ‘When you’re an offensive lineman, think of it as a lever. The person you’re pushing is the work, your spine is the rod and your butt is the fulcrum. The way you orient the lever is going to help you push that way.’ “

On playing offensive line: “Most people get lucky if they make five big decisions a day. We run 99 plays in a given game. It’s my job over the course of those 99 plays to call out a protection, call out a front and organize traffic. If I get that wrong, someone’s ribs gets broken, and someone goes to the hospital. For protections and calling out schemes, my track record is second to none. People call it pressure; I think it’s fun. You can think of your system algorithmically: If it’s a two by two with three down lineman, it’s this or this; if it’s three by one, you do this. Special case A, special case B. That’s what I think of when there’s eight men in the box. In my younger and more formidable years, I would say that (I suffered from paralysis by analysis.) Now, I actually think that thinking about it algorithmically like that makes it simpler. Most of time, it’s like a binary search tree: It’s either option A or option B. You go down a level: option A, option B. Whichever one it is, you make it and go.”

On one of the “crowning achievements of his life”: “Getting in versus Oregon State in the last game of 2012, even though I got destroyed on a PAT by the two people across from me. I came back from (ACL and MCL) surgery four months earlier than my doc expected. No can ever say that I don’t finish or follow through, because those five months were some of the hardest times of my life. Rehabbing three, four hours a day. Trying to study for finals while laying in a leg-motion machine. Going to class on pain pills so you’re just barely spacing out enough and trying to understand content that’s going to be on the final.”

On being featured on Deadspin in high school: “I was on Deadspin?”

On his father: “I call my father the Joseph, or El Jose. There’s a long story there, but there’s not enough hours in the day to tell it. He is a man known not to age but known in every age of man. He has a mustache that commands attention, second only to Caesar in history. He has the best stories of anyone I’ve ever met.”

On one of his favorite stories from his father: “If you’re gonna incorporate one, this is probably the one you’ll use. He is a young lad down on the Jersey shore. It’s the summertime, and he gets a call from a  friend of his. She goes, ‘Hey Joe. Hey Joe. We’re gonna go see the music. Come with us,’ and he says, ‘Well, I don’t really care all that much about music, but whatever.’ He falls asleep in this Mustang that doesn’t have a lot of room in it, so his legs are all stretched out. He, like, awkwardly falls asleep in the back of this Mustang. He wakes up six hours later, and he’s in nowhere town. He says, ‘Where are we?’ and they say, ‘Oh, we’re at this place called Woodstock.’ He says he doesn’t remember a whole lot, but he always says, ‘If anyone tells you it was a big deal at the time, it wasn’t.’ He felt bad for the farmer because all these people were all bathing themselves in his pond. The only artist he remembers is Janis Joplin because she screamed into the microphone. He went home the next day and only realized a year or two later, ‘Oh, I was at Woodstock. That was a big deal.’ “

On the craziest thing he’s done: “I once wrote an ethics final saying I was an ethical fundamentalist to the code of Hammurabi that basically ended with me hiring a ninja to kill the first born of a CEO. I did pretty well.”

On his life’s philosophies: “One of them is partially influenced by one of my favorite movies. Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell, no. But basically, it’s not over until you decide it is. You are the person who steers your fate, and you decide when it’s over. The second one I established when I was younger was, ‘Take convention and throw it away.’ Offensive linemen from New Jersey don’t go to California. They don’t conventionally graduate with two majors in three years. Life is more fun when you question the status quo and question what you really want.”

Michael Rosen covers football. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @michaelrosen3.

OCTOBER 18, 2013

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