ARKADELPHIA – Brayden Brazeal has put the zeal in Ouachita Baptist University (OBU) football.
Through October, the sophomore quarterback has helped lead the Tigers to a No. 5 ranking in the NCAA Division II.
On Saturday, Nov. 16, the Tigers ended the regular season 11-0 by beating Henderson State University 24-21 in the annual Battle of the Ravine rivalry.
“He established himself early and had a phenomenal year as a redshirt freshman,” said Todd Knight, OBU head coach, whose team advanced to the quarterfinals of the DII playoffs for the second year in a row.
Brazeal, from England, was Freshman of the Year in the Great American Conference in 2018. He completed 118 of 192 passes for 1,411 yards and 14 touchdowns. He rushed for 539 yards and six touchdowns.
Through October of this year, Brazeal has led in completion percentage (.764) while making 126 of 165 passes. His quarterback rating was 173.62 as he passed for 1,506 yards and 11 touchdowns with no interceptions. He has rushed for 251 yards and one touchdown. He holds a 150.6-yard-per-game passing average and 25.1 rushing average.
“He is not a 4.5 guy; he runs the 40 in 4.67,” said Knight. “But he runs well, makes great decisions, great passes and is really strong. He has good feet, good eyes. He is mentally tough.”
Since Brazeal entered OBU, he has learned that he is more of a leader than he thought.
“I knew people were going to look up to me,” said Brazeal. “The Lord has shown me time and time again He has put me here in this position for a reason. He wants me to guide people to Him.”
OBU tight end Hunter Swoboda said that Brazeal is a natural leader.
“Brayden gets along well with everyone. His leadership and charisma keep everybody upbeat and enthused. He knows how to encourage us and has done that really well,” said Swoboda. “He makes sure to respond like Jesus would.”
Growing up, Brazeal’s father told him and his brother to put God first in everything they do, then family, academics, sports. Brazeal now applies the Lord to everything he does.
“I have gone off that through the years,” said Brazeal, who has heard Knight, a deacon at First Baptist Church, Arkadelphia, say, “If God is first, everything else will fall in place.”
“Knowing that God is with me through everything helps me keep a good attitude in anything,” Brazeal said.
Because of the way Brazeal lives his life, there “is not a question that he is a young man of faith,” according to Knight, whose goal is to plant spiritual seeds and see players become Christians and “be the total man.”
“I’ve never heard him say one foul word, not that that makes you perfect. I’ve never heard a negative comment about teammates. I’ve never seen him point a finger. He prays every day after practice,” said Knight.
Brazeal became a Christian at a youth camp in Hot Springs when he was 13.
“That was the real moment I gave my life to Christ,” Brazeal said. “That’s where I wanted to live for Him. It was life-changing.
“Jesus is definitely everything,” he continued. “He is my Savior, my Lord. I try to live my life through Him every day and live like Jesus. I am not perfect. I am not able to achieve that standard that you have to set for yourself. He has gotten me this far in life, and I am going to follow Him the rest of my life.”
Wanting to be a good example to teammates, he invites them to Bible studies and Fellowship of Christian Athletes meetings.
“I hope I can show that I am a Christian man. If anybody has problems, I hope they can come to me and know that they can talk about anything, and I can be that person who is there for them. I want to be positive about everything,” said Brazeal.
Throughout his football career, Brazeal has relied on Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Bill Sorrell is a freelance writer and pastor of First Baptist Church, Whiteville, Tenn.