UMass vs. Wagner; Trump vs. Clinton; tight end Adam Breneman paying attention to both

  • UMass tight end Adam Breneman worked as a campaign manager in Pennsylvania before returning to football. Gazette Staff / File

  • UMass tight end Adam Breneman said his work in politics might have been nastier than playing football. AP

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

AMHERST — UMass junior tight end Adam Breneman was disappointed last week when the third presidential debate conflicted with the Minutemen’s weekly late practice on Wednesday.

Still, the idea of being a football player who is interested in politics remained more appealing than being a political operative interested in football.

In the spring Breneman was exactly that. After three seasons at Penn State, he briefly retired from football as his knee injuries appeared to be career ending. Ready to compete in another arena, he served as campaign manager for Mike Regan’s run for the Pennsylvania State Senate and helped guide him to a Republican primary win. But when his knee improved, he decided to return to football and transferred to UMass.

Between preparing for games on Saturday and doing work on his master’s degree from UMass’ Isenberg School of Management, Breneman is staying informed.

“A lot of guys weren’t happy because we were going to miss the debate,” Breneman said. “It’s interesting. Obviously we haven’t seen anything like this in a long time. I follow it pretty closely. My roommate (offensive lineman) Mike Boland is a political guy. We have a lot of debates at our apartment.”

He quickly headed off any questions about their specific allegiances.

“I won’t tell you which side either of us are on,” he said smiling.

UMass, which plays Wagner, Saturday at noon in Amherst, has players from 18 states. The closely contested battlegrounds of Florida, Ohio and Breneman’s home state of Pennsylvania are all represented on the roster. The tight end said many of the Minutemen have been paying attention to the election and discussing it.

“You don’t find a more diverse place than a football locker room. We have a bunch of guys coming from all walks of life having those conversations,” Breneman said. “Whenever you’re in an election season, the conversation gets a little more active.”

Breneman said professional athletes taking stronger political stands has created more conversation among their college counterparts.

“It’s not just the election, but everything,” he said. “With Colin Kaepernick (protests about police violence toward African-Americans), no matter how you feel, he has created a dialogue about all this stuff.”

Breneman said he’s always been drawn to politics.

“I don’t know. I have always really liked politics,” he said. “Whether it’s the competitiveness of the election and that type stuff. It’s always interested me.”

He wasn’t sure he’d want to go back to it after his football career is done.

“It’s such a brutal, brutal, brutal industry,” he said, adding more emphasis each time he repeated the word brutal. “It was a nasty place to be. But you have the opportunity to do a lot of good for a lot of people. We’ll see. I’m trying to play football as long as I can right now.”

His cameo in that arena has given him a more educated eye as he follows the presidential campaign.

“There’s definitely things I pick up on,” he said. “One of the first things you learn is, if someone says something bad about you, you never repeat the claim. You may deny it, but you never repeat it because it adds validity to what people say. (Donald) Trump does that all the time.”

The Nov. 8 election comes during UMass’ bye week and Breneman was considering going home to Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, to vote. While Massachusetts is considered a lock to vote for Hilary Clinton, the Keystone State is very much in play causing Clinton and Trump to spend time and advertising dollars there.

“It’s a big battleground state obviously. Part of me thinks it would be cool to be there right now, but also pretty annoying,” Breneman said. “I might actually be home for election day depending on our practice schedule. If not I’ll get my absentee ballot.”

Matt Vautour can be reached at mvautour@gazettenet.com. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage