More than four years after his Wingate University football career ended, Chris Brewer is still kicking.
Brewer, who was a Division II All-American during his four years as a punter and placekicker for the Bulldogs (2001-2004), is a kicker in his second season for the Carolina Speed of the American Indoor Football Association. It’s another chapter in a pro football story that’s probably more common that the journeys of the guys we see on TV on fall Sunday afternoons.
Brewer, like all players in the AIFA, makes $200 per game — “$250 if you win” — playing for the Speed, which is in its first year playing at Bojangles Coliseum in Charlotte after playing its initial two seasons in Concord. But the money’s not the point for many of the league’s players, Brewer said.
Actually, Chris’ fiancee, Whitney Walker, explained it well as I talked with the two of them after the Speed’s 50-36 loss to the South Carolina Force here last Saturday.
“It’s entertainment, or for some of the players it’s a way to rehab (from injuries) or it’s a next step,” she said.
Brewer works in sales for a Charlotte company that manufactures and maintains payroll systems. But on weekends he’s handling kickoffs and trying to boot a red, white and blue football through a narrow set of goalposts for the Speed. (As we explained in a previous post, there’s no punting in indoor football.)
“I don’t think I have the pure athleticism that I had in college, but I think it’s going pretty well,” Brewer said. “Every game, I’ve gotten better.”
Chris’ game last Saturday was a mixed bag, as he connected on one out of two field goal attempts — the successful one was a 40-yarder that would’ve been good from 10 yards farther out — and 2-of-4 extra points. By, say, NFL standards that doesn’t sound that impressive, but kicking is a different game in the indoor version. NFL goalposts are 18 feet, 6 inches apart, and the AIFA crossbar is just over half that width, 10 feet.
“It’s definitely all about the goalposts,” Brewer said. “There’s no room for error. If you do anything even a little bit wrong you’re probably going to miss.”
Brewer didn’t miss many in college, hitting 19-of-28 field goals and 67-of-74 extra points in his final two seasons at Wingate. And he may have been an even better punter, booming a school and South Atlantic Conference record 89-yarder in a home game against Lenoir-Rhyne in 2003. It earned him attention from NFL teams, but he ultimately signed with the Edmonton Eskimos of the Canadian Football League in the spring of 2005.
He played well in one pre-season game, but didn’t stick with the team. “They had a veteran kicker and I think they just brought me in for insurance,” Brewer said. “They cut me before the season started.”
Almost immediately, he caught on with the Macon, Ga., team in af2 (the league is to Arena Football League what the Triple A minor leagues is to Major League Baseball). But after that he was out of football for a while, taking time off to finish his degree in communication studies at Wingate in December 2006 and working in the Philadelphia area.
Back in Charlotte, he found out about the Speed, at that time based in Cabarrus County, contacted the owner and was impressive in a tryout. He finished the 2008 season with them.
“I was really pleased when they moved down here for this season,” he said. “It makes it a lot easier to balance football with everything else I have going on.”