Trent Brehm doesn’t have any stars in the recruiting rankings. He’s not being pursued by the Blue Bloods of college football. His is by no means a household name. His high school, Papillion-LaVista South, is bounded to the north by highway 370 and farmland to the south. It’s on the absolute outer reaches of the Omaha metro.
It’s not glamorous, but maybe that’s okay. Because Brehm isn’t about that. He’s also not interested in what he can’t do.
“He’s a kid that absolutely maximizes every cell in his body,” said Papio South head football coach Tim Clemenger. “He carries a lot of weight with our guys.”
Brehm is Clemenger’s “quarterback of the defense,” making all the calls and adjustments on the field. When Brehm speaks, Clemenger knows other players will listen. Brehm doesn’t get it wrong just about anywhere, including in the classroom where he has a near-perfect GPA.
He could play receiver, or probably quarterback, on offense. It’s something he does from time to time, mostly on special teams when he directs the swinging gate PAT formation. He’s also the team’s place kicker and punter. He’s made a 52-yard field goal this season, the longest in the state by 10 yards.
“If he’s going to get scholarship money, it’s probably going to come through his foot,” Clemenger said.
And, yeah, he’s the starting free safety.
If that’s not enough, Brehm is a three-sport athlete. He plays second base for the Titans baseball team and point guard in basketball.
“In basketball, I don’t score a lot of points,” Brehm said. “I get in there and play hard defense and scrap and get on the floor. That’s my role on the team.”
Brehm is probably best on the baseball field, known for his high batting average and intelligent play. “It’s a lot more mental than any other game,” Brehm said. It’s said as if, ironically, everything he does isn’t cerebral. He’s thought about trying to play both football and baseball in college.
Par for the course for the kid who does anything and everything.
But the question left unanswered is why. Why does Brehm feel so compelled, despite lacking size and recognition and elite athleticism? Why not specialize, perhaps in baseball, where he could probably land a spot at a decent school?
They aren’t simple questions to answer.
First, he’s a classic, stereotypical competitive freak. By his own admission, Brehm wants to win, no matter if it’s school or board games or sports. Some people just have that fire. Brehm has it turned up to 11.
But there’s another underlying reason: his brother, Trey.
Trey is a third-grader, but he’s anything but typical. He won’t ever score a touchdown, rip a double down the line, or dive for loose rebounds like his older brother. Born with epilepsy and a gene mutation, Trey is confined to a wheelchair. He cannot speak or communicate.
“We spent a Christmas up in Minnesota at the Mayo Clinic for him,” Brehm said. “It was a little different for me growing up.” It wasn’t the only holiday his family spent in a hospital. It’s made the sacrifices for athletics seem small by comparison.
Brehm takes that feeling with him onto the field. He says he thinks about his brother every time he suits up. “I’ve just got to make the most of it,” Brehm said. “It’s kind of for him because he’s never going to get that opportunity.”
Where some might harbor resentment or even anger, Brehm has embraced the lessons his brother’s illness has taught. His perspective on kindness and treating others with care and respect have been enhanced by his brother’s afflictions. He’s learned not to judge others because, as he says, you never know what someone else’s life entails.
It’s a lesson we could all stand to learn a little better.