Football was the dream.
But that dream died the day doctors told Jacob Brenyo he couldn’t play the game anymore. Coming to become a starter for the LaGrange College football team as a wide receiver was a pill. difficult to swallow.
âI was crushed,â Brenyo said.
Fast forward a year and now, Brenyo has traded his football for a tennis racquet and is quickly becoming a key player for the college tennis team. He was even recently awarded the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee award by the school’s sports department for his leadership, service and involvement.
It took almost a year to adapt to a new sport, but now he’s addicted to the game, he said.
âThere is something about the game that is very addicting,â Brenyo said. “I appreciate all aspects of it.”
To this day, Brenyo, who previously played as a linebacker for Central Florida Christian Academy, still cannot remember the game that ended his football career. He was told it was a hard tackle that knocked him out. But having already suffered four concussions – three in high school and one in college – the fifth was just one too many.
“It was by far the worst,” said Brenyo, who lives in Bay Hill.
Post-concussion syndrome set in, and with it, headaches. Brenyo has struggled to adjust to life without football.
âI didn’t have a lot of motivation to do anything,â he said.
He turned to his former FCAC coach Michael Bonneville for advice and support.
âHe really was a rock to me,â Brenyo said. âHe helped me realize that football is not the end of the world.
It was then that Brenyo took up tennis. At first, he did it out of a need to be active as he recovered from his concussion. It was almost like therapy for him, he said.
Then he started to wonder if he had a chance to play on the tennis team.
âI knew I could be good at it, but I didn’t know how good,â Brenyo said.
Brenyo’s love for tennis was nothing new. He had been practicing this sport for many years.
âI loved playing tennis growing up,â he said. âI’ve been playing my whole life.
But when he asked the tennis coach to join the team for a walk, he initially refused Brenyo.
âHe wouldn’t even have considered that possibility until he saw me play,â said Brenyo. âHe played me against number four (team player), and I did well. After that he told me that we would try it on a trial basis to see if I could do it.
But competitive tennis took a while to get used to. The trashy speech that was normal for football was not welcome on the pitch. He started spending a lot more time in the weight room than he used to. But after years of getting beaten up on the soccer field, he found the physicality of tennis more manageable.
âThey’re not on the same spectrum, and in the end, the sport of finesse ended up being a lot easier on my body,â said Brenyo.
For the first half of the year, Brenyo had more losses than wins.
âI didn’t know how to handle the pressure,â he said.
It was just one more adjustment he had to make – to go from being addicted to a team to competing on his own.
âIt’s all up to me,â he said. âIn some ways it’s good, but in other ways it’s easy to become self-critical. “
Then in the spring his game improved dramatically and he ended the season with more wins than losses.
âSlowly but surely it got better and then it clicked,â Brenyo said.
His best game of the year, he said, was against Covenant College.
âThey were number one in our conference and I got to play one of their starters,â said Brenyo. âHe had already beaten one of my teammates earlier. It was my last victory of the year.
Now that he’s fully engaged in the game, Brenyo is excited to start his junior year on the pitch. And he’s already setting the bar high for himself.
His goal for next season: to be undefeated.