Almost three years ago, we tried to understand the challenges San Jose State head coach Brent Brennan faced rebuilding a stagnate Spartan football program.
Since that ramp up, Brennan’s football program has achieved national recognition with an undefeated 2020 season going into the Arizona Bowl this Friday, along with the Spartans’ first Mountain West championship, an AP 19th poll ranking, and various player awards.
In that same time behind-the-scenes, Brennan’s other crown jewel “Beyond Football” has also been quietly growing and also helping towards the team’s growth and success.
The Beyond Football program prepares players with the skills and opportunities for life after players graduate and after their playing careers.
Still managed by educator and life coach, Tobruk Blaine, she continues full-ahead with the Beyond Football charter.
“When you see players like Christian Webb, Tre Webb, Tre Jenkins, Jack Snyder, Cam Alexander, Isa’ako Togia, and others, you’re seeing guys on the field who are heavily involved with the program,” said Blaine. “These are five-star guys beyond football.”
Since last interviewing Blaine, her family has also expanded two-fold with two young daughters. Blaine is married to the Spartans’ Director of Football Operations, Ben Thienes.
“The program was so new then when you last interviewed me, and now there’s a lot more buy-in and interest in what we’re doing,” added Blaine. “As they (players) were more uncertain what the program could mean for them, they’ve gotten to know me.”
Blaine adds, “The trust factor that coaches develop with athletes is the same exact situation for me. They have to buy into me as an individual and develop that same trust and interest.”
Former Spartan players have also reached back out like wide receiver Justin Holmes.
“Justin was a member of Agoge (uh-GO-ghee), which is another program within Beyond Football,” stated Blaine. “Justin’s since created a strong network learned from our program that teaches deeper interpersonal skills and networking.”
Agoge Academy is the career development arm and personal brand building under the Beyond Football umbrella. It was a term coined by Spartan QB coach Ryan Gunderson which describes leaders of the community.
Blaine continues to connect and engage with former SJSU athletes and alumni in efforts that can be mutually beneficial.
“The larger changes of the program are from our selection by the NCAA with 30 other schools,” announced Blaine. “These are modules and classes to further develop a leadership academy for our entire student-athlete population giving us the resources and support to implement it.”
Blaine also now partners with SJSU advisor Annalisa Duarte in what is being called, “Beyond Sparta.” It’s a bigger program still in the early stages meant to duplicate the Beyond Football success for all SJS student-athletes, thus hopefully supporting the recruiting success and competitive winning culture throughout the university.
“Yes, it can all be seen as a recruiting tool,” said Blaine of the program. “It’s at least in the top-five checklist when someone is considering their choices because being in the Silicon Valley is different and unique with who’s out here and who they can connect with. Our program may not be a difference-maker, but it’s at least an influence no one else has.”
Google, Facebook, and the local pro teams are notable names in the lineup of companies SJS football players have worked with. Adobe, a multinational creative software company near San Jose State, is a more recent blue-chip company Blaine has begun interacting with.
“Cameron Alexander did a micro-internship with Adobe over this past summer and fall,” said Blaine. “He crushed it with Adobe and it’s another great example of the increasing reach of the program.”
Blaine’s connection to higher levels at Adobe allow for further discussions for more internships.
“We have to be aware that a majority won’t go onto the NFL,” affirmed Blaine. “The hope is they can continue to make connections they can lean on later like Justin did and others will.”
“Christian Webb is the perfect five-star beyond football guy right now,” Blaine proudly adds. “Christian’s love and desire to give back, volunteering with the youth, and his work with the church not just shows his passion for helping people, but his high-quality of character and professionalism will only improve with the program. He’ll have a bright future no matter what direction he goes.”
Blaine, an agent-of-change
Beyond Football and soon, Beyond Sparta expects to be a legacy piece born from Brennan’s idea factory. The intent is starting to be felt all around San Jose State and beyond.
Coming off one of the worst years of modern human history - this simple, unsung program should be one of many sparks around the globe expected to bear more change-agents for a future much beyond what is now.
The people that get it will continue to put in the work from the people who believe they can be successful, and they become all that is great for the rest of us who never see it coming.