By Dave Pearce
Jace Brandenstein was clearly the center of attention on Wednesday afternoon at North Posey High School. Brandenstein was being honored by a reception to announce his signing to continue his education and soccer career at Greenville College in Illinois. However, the modest Brandenstein was clearly uncomfortable being the center of attention and turned attention away from himself at every opportunity.
But there was a lot of love, pride, and support in the room for the North Posey High School honor student and all-time leading scorer in Viking men’s soccer. And after an interview involving his ‘extended’ and ‘blended’ family, it was clear that Brandenstein had the best of both worlds.
When asked about his records, Brandenstein took absolutely no credit, instead foregoing any positive answers about himself to take the opportunity to pass credit along to his teammates, coaches, and parents for presenting him with opportunies. All he had to do was finish.
“I watched Jace growing up and when he was an eighth grader, he and his friend Reed Heathcotte came down to a University of Evansville camp,” Hines said. “That was really the first time I had watched him play.”
So was college soccer in his future at a young age?
“Probably his strongest asset is his versatility,” Hines said of Brandenstein. “He is probably a better defender than scorer but we put him in the front because we needed him there. And all he did was broke the school scoring record.”
Finish will be the key word for the 17-year-old senior. He will be going into a situation where excellence is expected both on the field and off. Greenville College is a liberal arts four-year school that is affiliated with the Free Methodist Church, a church with an evangelical foundation. The college is located in Greenville, Ill., 45 miles east of St. Louis, Missouri on Interstate 70.”He can play soccer because he has a lot of heart and that shows all the time,” Hines said of the signee.
“Greenville has made the NCAA tournament four of the past six years,” Brandenstein said of his new team. “We went up there and met with the coach and immediately decided that’s where I would play.”
The College’s original mascot was the Gremlins but changed in the early 20th century to the Panthers. Greenville’s colors are orange and black, a recent decision based upon a student body vote of the school’s 1,100 students. All of its athletics teams compete in the NCAA’s Division III St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference and Upper Midwest Athletic Conference.
Greenville College was the first campus in America to go completely wireless with its Internet. Greenville’s network spans the entire campus, making Internet access available from any point on campus. Among the school’s alumni are Milwaukee Bucks general manager John Hammond and members of the Christian Artist group Jars of Clay, which was formed on the campus in the early 1990s.
Brandenstein is aware that he has chosen a ‘road less traveled.’ More will be expected of him and he will expect more of himself. As a matter of fact, his Viking Coach Andy Hines said that if “I’ve always wanted to play college soccer but this year, I had to make up my mind if I was going to play or not,” Brandenstein said. “If he has a flaw, it is that he takes the game too seriously, a statement rarely if ever heard from a coach at any level.”
“Just looking at it now, I am really glad I chose to play soccer,” Brandenstein said. “I had Scott (his step-father) and Andy (Hines) as coaches and both of their techniques are so different. I have learned to do almost everything, I have had so much fun playing.”
The criminal justice major realizes that ‘an idle mind is the devil’s workshop,’ and wants to be sure his time is filled with worthwhile activities.
But a glance around the room shows the kind of family that will be behind this young student athlete through the good times and through the bad. They already have been and it’s obviously not going to change.
Jace is the son of Jason Brandenstein and Carol Butrum. Like half of marriages in America, the marriage of Carol and Jason did not have a storybook ending. But the pair made a pact many years ago that the children would always come first, regardless of the situation. And coming from a sportswriter who has followed the career of Jace, it is evident that vow was not broken.
Although Jason is remarried to Bee Brandenstein and Carol is remarried to Scott Butrum, you would never guess the couples were ever any other way than they are today. They work together to make sure parental representation is there at all the children’s events. It takes a special commitment not only from the parents but also from the spouses of the parents. But all seem perfectly satisfied with their roles in the lives of their children.
“We are so excited for him,” said Jason and wife Bee. “We will definitely go up and see him play.”
“He is guaranteed playing time right away because they have both varsity and jayvee teams,” mom Carol said. “His coach said a lot of schools who don’t have jayvee squads, their freshmen and sophomores just sit the bench and then when they are juniors, they are called upon to play when they haven’t played in two years.”
“Jace was a very easy kid to coach,” stepfather Scott Butrum said. “He had the willingness to really push himself.”
Several schools had shown an interest in the senior, who suffered through a good portion of this season with a nagging back problem. But once he saw the possibility of going to a private college with a high-level program and an even higher level curriculum within driving distance for his family, the decision was pretty easy.
Both sides of the family recognize that Brandenstein is not only a ‘good kid’ but is also an honor student.
While Brandenstein knows he has his work cut out for him, he also knows it’s not the first time he has had to work for what he wanted to achieve. And with his determination and the support system provided by his families, he will be successful not only on the soccer field but in the classroom as well.
By Dave Pearce