“You’re going in.” The moment Brandon Weiler heard those words from Gavilan College football coach John Lango in the Rams’ second game of the season against College of the Redwoods, Weiler rushed onto the field like a runaway train. You couldn’t blame him. It had been nearly a full year since Weiler had saw game action after he dislocated his elbow after the first game of his senior season at Gilroy High. The Rams may have lost to the Redwoods, 32-29, but they found another middle linebacker and future leader of the defense.
“I was excited and nervous because I had to adjust to the speed of college ball because it’s a lot faster than the high school game,” he said. “But after I hit a few guys, all the nerves kind of went away.”
Did they ever. Weiler made incremental progress throughout the season, leading to his best performance of the year in the team’s season-ending loss to Merced on Nov. 16. The 5-foot-11, 180-pound Weiler led the team with 11 solo tackles and two sacks while also forcing a fumble. Against Merced, Weiler put everything together, a combination of putting in the necessary work on and off the field.
“The improvement came from being focused everyday at practice,” he said. “Just working hard, staying focused and knowing all the things I needed to when I got called to go in. I watched a lot of game film to pick up on things on the opponents, read the keys and knowing what the offense is going to do before they even do it. You watch the body language and how they align and stuff like that to get a read on them.”
Weiler’s first game action was on special teams, but he continually improved and earned a starting linebacker position midway through the season. Even though Gavilan finished 2-8, it showed improvement from last year, giving hope to everyone in the program that it is headed in the right direction. Weiler was a key part in the Rams’ resurgence, providing solid play despite being a bit undersized at middle linebacker.
“I felt like I pursued the ball well and met the running back on almost every play,” said Weiler, who expressed a desire to improve his skills when it comes to shedding bigger offensive linemen. “One of the things I could improve on is to be more physical in the box because the bigger offensive linemen sometimes will overpower me or get the best of me. I have to focus on being more physical and smarter with those guys. Things like learning to use my leverage, get lower than them and being able to outrun them on sweeps and other plays. I have to read the bounce back plays where the running back jumps into different holes.”
Even though Weiler was one of the bright spots for the Rams this past season, his community college career would’ve never unfolded had it not been some meaningful conversations Weiler had with his dad, Travis, about a month before the season started. Up until that point, Weiler was on the fence in terms of saying yes to play football. Even if he did, it wasn’t a guarantee that he could join the Rams so late in the process.
“The injury kept me out of football for a long time, and I was kind of sad about it,” he said. “I didn’t know how I was going to bounce back (after basically losing my entire senior season at Gilroy High). I finally snapped out of it one day and told myself I would do whatever it took to get back out there. My dad encouraged me to play and helped get me going.”
Less than two weeks before the season-opener, Weiler contacted Lango and asked if it was too late for him to try out for the team. It wasn’t. Weiler got in approximately a half-dozen practices before the season-opener before getting his chance to play a couple of games into the season. He never looked back, making an impact on special teams before playing the linebacker position with a level of discipline and intensity that Lango hopes will define the program going forward.
“He’s coming back as our defensive team leader next season,” Lango said.
More than ever, Weiler treats every play as if it’s his last, knowing just how precious life is. He lives on Miller Street, just blocks away from Christmas Hill Park, the site of last summer’s Garlic Festival shooting. Weiler’s mom, Shaelyn, was actually at the festival during the shooting, and she escaped unscathed. Nonetheless, it was a scary situation for thousands of people.
“It affected the entire city of Gilroy and made us all a little more scared,” Weiler said. “It was a wakeup call to everyone that what has been happening around the country (with gun violence) can hit your hometown as well.”
Weiler grew up playing several sports, including baseball, basketball, boxing and karate. His first taste of football came with the Pop Warner Gilroy Browns when he was 11 or 12 years old. The Browns ended up advancing to the Pop Warner Super Bowl in Florida, and the following year Weiler was in Florida again to play in the Super Bowl, this time with the Morgan Hill Raiders.
“I played safety, defensive line sometimes and was kind of a utility player,” he said. “That’s how I’ve always been my whole career. In high school, I played safety, linebacker and quarterback.”
Weiler has come a long way since dislocating his right elbow early in his senior year at Gilroy High. He was ready to have another strong season, coming off the team winning its first-ever Central Coast Section playoff championship. Instead, Weiler suffered a season-ending injury, and the Mustangs—due to a variety of factors—finished 1-9. Weiler went to the emergency room after suffering the injury, during which time his elbow was popped back into place.
For the next three to four months, Weiler did physical therapy to get his range of motion back and strengthen the ligaments and tendons around the elbow. Still, several months went by before Weiler thought about trying out for the Gavilan team, and now he couldn’t imagine what life would be like had he not made the decision to give it a go this season. After Gavilan’s final game on Nov. 16, Weiler took a week off before getting back into training.
He lifts weights with some of his teammates and also works out on his own at Gilroy High. His workout features footwork and agility drills, and it’s giving him a head start on preparations for the 2020 season. Weiler had a sense of pride in a conversation he had with Lango immediately after the season was over.
“He told me I needed to be a leader next year,” Weiler said. “I’m thinking I have to be the guy next year because a lot of sophomores on the defensive side are moving on. I’m kind of getting myself prepared for that and getting myself in the proper mental state I need to be a leader. Being a leader means working out extra on your own time. … We’re really excited about the program. We only had two wins this year, but we also had a lot of close games we could’ve won. It’s starting to look up, and I think next year we can make some noise in our league.”