University at Buffalo fullback Boomer Brock spoke after practice on Tuesday of how much he was looking forward to this season. He lost a year at Erie Community College because of a torn labrum in his shoulder. He played only two full games for UB last season, tearing a pectoral muscle in the first quarter of Game No. 3.
That last injury required eight months of intense rehabilitation. But it was all worth it, he said, because playing Division I football for his hometown team had long been his mission. He was benching almost 500 pounds. He could squat two reps at 665. The idea of burying opposing linebackers to make room for running back Branden Oliver provided this Iroquois graduate the motivation for the long journey back to the playing field.
But football can be an unforgiving game, devoid of compassion, unwilling to grant special treatment to those who have “paid their dues.” Brock was helped off the practice field Wednesday and placed on the training table. One leg was elevated, the knee packed in ice. And Brock lay with his fists covering his eyes, unmoving, even as teammates came over to wish him the best. He left on crutches.
Jeff Quinn is calling Brock “day to day,” the head coach’s catchall for any injury that’s not irrefutably season-ending. But given Brock’s pained facial expressions and inconsolable state, it appears he’ll miss Saturday’s season opener at Ohio State, with further examination needed to determine when he might return.
Brock, a senior, figured to play a major role against the Buckeyes. He’s a muscular 5-foot-10, 260 pounds, and the Bulls looked forward to him serving as cowcatcher for the locomotive that is Oliver. The two played just those two full games together last season with Oliver amassing 359 yards.
“You put a guy in front of him and he’s going to get him out of the way and sacrifice his body for me,” Oliver said Tuesday. “And that’s what I love about having a fullback, especially a fullback like him, benching over 400 pounds, squatting over 600 pounds. I mean, he’s a beast.”
But for now, it’s a waiting game.
“We’ll find out what the diagnosis is,” Quinn said. “He is a tough kid, boy. I always joke around with Boomer, ‘There’s two sounds Boomer makes, one hitting you and you hitting the ground.’ There’s just a different mentality when we put him in there and that’s the thing I like about having those different personnel groupings and you can change up a little bit and bring a different demeanor in.”
Kendall Patterson, a sophomore, follows Brock on the two-deep. He’s 6-0, 260 and a converted defensive lineman.
“And Alex Dennison can play that position, so we got other options,” Quinn said. “I’m excited about those other guys getting a chance, too.”
But there are no options who can match Brock in terms of sheer power. Who else bench presses 500 and squats 665?
“He may be the only one other than Andre Davis and Jasen Carlson,” Quinn said, referencing the players on the left side of the offensive line. “They can lift up the back end of a truck and so can he.
“But we’ll be able to execute,” Quinn said. “We’ll have guys step in, that’s why we spend so much time developing our depth. It’s going to happen sometime. Everybody’s dealing with it. The Bills are dealing with it with their quarterback situation. We’ve been very fortunate and we’ve been smart in the way we’ve practiced our kids. But it’s game week and guys play hard, guys play physical. And when you got guys that are playing hard and physical guys are going to get nicked up a little bit.”
Brock received Division I-AA offers out of Iroquois but yearned to play at the I-A level. So he decided to attend ECC and see if he could attract major college attention. His plan was working but interest waned when he suffered the shoulder injury in spring ball following his freshman year. At that point he opted to walk on at UB and went on to earn a scholarship.