Jacob Brenyo was a starter for the LaGrange College football team when a concussion cut his career short. Now, he’s all-in as a collegiate tennis player.
Football was the dream.
But that dream died the day doctors told Jacob Brenyo he could no longer play the game. Having just become a starter for the LaGrange College football team as a wide receiver, it was a hard pill to swallow.
“I was crushed,” Brenyo said.
Fast forward one year and now Brenyo has traded his football for a tennis racquet and is quickly becoming a key player for the college’s tennis team. He was even recently awarded the Student Athlete Advisory Committee Award by the school’s athletic department for his leadership, service and involvement.
Adjusting to a new sport took nearly a year, but now he’s hooked on the game, he said.
“There’s something about the game that’s very addicting,” Brenyo said. “I enjoy every aspect of it.”
To this day, Brenyo, who previously played as a linebacker for Central Florida Christian Academy, still can’t remember the game that ended his football career. He was told it was a hard tackle that knocked him out. But having already suffered four concussions — three in high school and one in college — the fifth was just one too many.
“It was by far the worst,” said Brenyo, who lives in Bay Hill.
Post-concussion syndrome set in, and with it came headaches. Brenyo struggled to adjust to life with no football.
“I didn’t have a lot of motivation to do anything,” he said.
He turned to his former CFCA coach Michael Bonneville for advice and support.
“He was really a rock for me,” Brenyo said. “He helped me realize football isn’t the end of the world.”
That’s when Brenyo took up tennis. At first, he did it out of a need to be active as he recovered from his concussion. It was almost like a therapy for him, he said.
Then he began to wonder if he had a chance to play on the tennis team.
“I knew I could be good at it, but didn’t know how good,” Brenyo said.
Brenyo’s love of tennis wasn’t new. He’d been playing the sport for many years.
“I loved playing tennis growing up,” he said. “I’ve played my whole life.”
But when he approached the tennis coach about joining the team as a walk on, he initially turned Brenyo away.
“He wouldn’t even consider the possibility until he saw me play,” Brenyo said. “He made me play against the number four (player on the team), and I did well. After that, he told me we would try it on a trial basis to see if I could make it.”
But competitive tennis took some getting used to. The trash talk that was normal for football was not welcome on the court. He started spending a lot more time in the weight room than he was used to. But after years of getting beat up on a football field, he found the physicality of tennis more manageable.
“They’re not in the same spectrum, and in the end, the finesse sport ended up being a lot easier on my body,” Brenyo said.
For the first half of the year, Brenyo had more losses than wins.
“I didn’t know how to handle the pressure,” he said.
It was just one more adjustment he had to make - going from relying on a team to competing on his own.
“It’s all on me,” he said. “In some ways it’s nice, but in other ways it’s easy to become a self-critic.”
Then in the spring, his game drastically improved, and he ended the season with more wins than losses.
“Slowly but surely it got better, and then it just clicked,” Brenyo said.
His best game of the year, he said, was against Covenant College.
“They were number one in our conference, and I got to play one of their starters,” Brenyo said. “He’d already beaten one of my teammates earlier. It was my last victory of the year.”
Now that he’s fully committed to the game, Brenyo is excited to start his junior year on the court. And he’s already setting the bar high for himself.
His goal for next season — to be undefeated.