Oct. 19, 2007
By Nicholas Trost
Playing center in college football is often a thankless and anonymous position. While many might forget the importance of the center, today's Husky legend Bern Brostek made quite a name for himself playing the position for the UW.
Brostek, the only four-year starter at center for the Huskies in the last 30 years, was described as being `dependable,' `hard-nosed' and `tough-as-nails' during his time at Washington. With his workman-like attitude and dedication to the weight room he was able to carve out a great Husky career.
"I was totally committed to weightlifting," said Brostek from his home in Hawai'i. "I think that really helped me to last and to be there every week. Back then I benched 450 pounds, I never missed workouts, and I was always making sure that I was taking care of myself. It just helped me to play the best that I could at Washington."
Brostek used his bulk to push around Pac-10 opponents, but his size was not always an advantage for him. As a youngster, he was almost too big to play Pop Warner football.
"I was playing in Pop Warner and I had to lose weight every year. I was too big. That's when I knew that I had an advantage because I had to lose weight all the time."
Once Brostek learned to take advantage of his size, people began to take notice. Before college he was a state wrestling champion in Hawai'i. In college, he was a First-Team All-America and won the Morris Trophy, given to the Pac-10's offensive lineman of the year, in 1989. But none of these accolades meant as much as winning every Saturday. In fact the best honor he ever received wasn't in the form of an award.
"I came back the following year (1990) after I got drafted and saw the Huskies play in Pasadena for the Rose bowl," remembers Brostek. "The thing that meant the most is that I went to the banquet the night before and my old coach Keith Gilbertson said that I was a big part in getting the team to where it was. That was the greatest honor."
For Brostek, all the accolades and praise he earned while playing center almost did not happen. When he first came to the UW, he played the guard position. But, wanting more playing time, he moved over a spot under the quarterback.
"That was a fun time and I learned that I was good enough to play because I was practicing against the starters on defense."
One of those starters was future NFL first-round draft pick, linebacker Joe Kelly. Brostek credits his time going up against Kelly with making him ready for a starting role.
"At the end of the day, playing with Joe Kelly just made me tougher." Now, as a coach at Hawai'i Prep he tries to teach and train his own players how to achieve the success that he did. Whatever he is doing seems to be working. Two of his former players are going head-to-head today at Husky Stadium: Husky junior defensive end Daniel Te'o-Nesheim and Duck center Max Unger.
"I am very proud to have those two kids playing here today," says Brostek. "My passion for this game that I gave to those kids and then seeing them here is a very good feeling."
For Brostek it is all about establishing a pipeline. Back when he chose UW, he was being recruited by the likes of USC and UCLA, just to name a few. He said he came to Washington because of the people who came before him. "Three other guys from my high school who were a couple of years older had all chosen to play football at the UW. I wanted to keep that connection going."
Brostek soon realized that his decision was a good one. He learned that the Pac-10 was a great stepping-stone to the NFL.
"Playing football at Washington and in the Pac-10 really prepares you for the NFL. Because the talent is there, you are ready to go onto the next level."
Even with the Pac-10 being a great conference and Washington being a top-notch program, it was the feeling of running out of the tunnel at Husky Stadium that confirmed that his choice to be a Husky was a good one.
"I love the sirens going off. I just have to say that it is like one of those adrenaline rushes that I don't think anyone else can actually experience if you are not suited up."
Another experience he wishes he could share with everyone is playing the position of center. He feels if others played it, they would understand its importance. But Brostek learned to let his game do the talking. Day in and day out, you could always count on a solid showing from Brostek, who would never fail to do his assignment.
But today, Brostek will not go unnoticed. After a distinguished Husky career and eight-year NFL career, Brostek is finally the center of attention as the Husky Legend.