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Brendan Schaub: A Long Way from Boulder, Still a Buff for Life

Former CU Football player turned UFC heavyweight fighter still finds time to keep up with his alma mater.

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The Colorado football program has a deep tradition based on loyalty. The "Shoulder to Shoulder" motto represents those who have given their time, energy, blood, sweat and tears in the name of the University of Colorado.  The deep rooted brotherhood has embodied the Buffs for decades. Byron "Whizzer" White, Bobby Anderson, Rashaan Salaam, Kordell Stewart and Daniel Graham are just some of the names that have echoed across Folsom Field in the past. Another name probably not thought of when referring to CU Football is UFC Heavyweight fighter Brendan Schaub.

Some have called him "The Hybrid", others know him as "Big Brown", but before ever stepping into the octagon, Schaub was a battle warrior in a Buffs uniform.  The 6-foot-4, 240 pound blocking fullback was a physical monster on special teams from 2003-2005. Those years under Coach Gary Barnett guided Schaub to become a skilled and disciplined athlete, but playing college football and reaching the pinnacle of being a UFC fighter almost never happened. Schaub’s senior season at Overland High School (Aurora, CO) was supposed to represent the start of the next step in his life. After working the entire offseason, the anticipation for football was at a fever pitch and the first game of the 2001 season was an experience like none other. Overland traveled to participate in a KSA event at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando, FL against Cypress Bay HS (Vista Park, FL). However, the All-State fullback’s season would be cut short with a major injury. On the first play of the game, Schaub went downfield for a long pass and was blindsided by two defenders.  A couple broken ribs and a lacerated liver kept Schaub in an Orlando hospital for a month. He was unable to make the trip back to Colorado and doctors feared his liver would burst while flying. "It was the toughest thing I’ve ever had to go through", Schaub said. "I missed my entire senior season and overcoming it was an early sign of my success."

The setback made Brendan fight harder for what he wanted. After high school, he bulked up 30 pounds and decided to attend Whittier College, a division III school in California. The transition helped Schaub fight through adversity, along with laying the foundation to become a Buff. After transferring to CU and redshirting for a season, Schaub’s immediate impact on special teams earned him the opportunity for more playing time. The values of hard work, dedication and persistence were always consistent with Barnett and his player. A bond was created that still holds strong with Schaub, who hasn’t taken Barnett’s life lessons for granted. "I don’t think coaches know the effect they have on their players. He’s the best coach I’ve ever known and he had a tremendous impact on my life."

Like most of the players who come in contact with Barnett, they share the same opinion.  Sadly, the reputation of the longtime coach became tarnished by the controversy during his time at CU.

Several players on the football team were entangled in rape allegations, ultimately forcing Barnett to resign from the program in 2005. Schaub and the rest of his Buffaloes teammates were shocked on how CU handled the entire situation. "Initially, I was so confused about what happened to coach. I didn’t understand how this could be especially considering how well disciplined we were as a team.  If we had a bad game, coach would make us practice in full pads for three days afterwards. It made us tougher and there’s nobody like Gary Barnett."

After leaving CU in pursuit his NFL dreams with the Buffalo Bills, Schaub returned to Boulder a couple years later to an unwelcoming situation with former head coach Dan Hawkins. "I was upset to see how the program fell apart. One thing that I found very unnerving was when Hawkins decided to paint over the golden wall leading out of the locker room. The wall signified the greatest wins in CU football history, all the way back to Coach McCartney and Hawkins destroyed that like many things. You had a world class coach with Barnett, who represented CU well. Hawkins was the polar opposite."

Saddened by the state of his alma mater and realizing professional football wasn’t in his future, Schaub worked for a once in a lifetime goal. He trained as a boxer and excelled by winning the 2007 Colorado Golden Gloves Heavyweight Championship. Combining his boxing skills with being brown belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu gave Schaub the opportunity to compete in "The Ultimate Fighter" season 10. He advanced to fight in the finale of the show, ultimately losing to fellow UFC Heavyweight Roy Nelson.  The loss could have been another setback for the champion, but after leaving a good impression on UFC President Dana White, Schaub would join the ranks of professional fighting. "I can’t even express just how difficult it was to scrap my way towards everything that I have today. I have worked so hard to become successful in my life and it’s been a tough road. It’s never enough just to get there, I hear guys all the time who’re happy with being a UFC fighter. That’s cool I guess, but not for me. It’s not enough just to get there if you want to be great at something. Celebrate when it’s all over and you make it to the hall of fame."

Being a professional athlete was something Schaub started chasing from a young age. Someone who’s very close to him knew what it would take to obtain that dream. Brendan’s uncle, Pax Beale, who’s better known as "Mr. Venice", was an inspiration to him growing up and for good reason. Among the remarkable accomplishments for Beale as a bodybuilder, he was named Mr. Universe in 1995, two-time Mr. Senior Bodybuilder of the Year and is the only person ever to swim to Alcatraz from the shore in pitch dark (In December with no fins or wetsuit). Beale got a lot of attention for his workout routine and was endorsed by legendary NFL coach Bill Walsh. Schaub’s bloodline has been a valuable part of his heritage.  "My aunt and uncle taught me the blueprint of becoming successful growing up. They showed me the ropes and educated me on supplements along with how to nourish my body correctly."

A strict workout regimen that includes hemp protein and buffalo jerky is just a must for Schaub to stay in shape. The level of conditioning makes him a world class talent and it shows in all aspects of life.

Being involved in the UFC has been a blessing for "Big Brown", but his talents go far beyond the cage. Radio, television, speaking engagements and fashion clothing lines are all projects Schaub is currently exploring. Along with famed co-host Bryan Callen, he has a top rated podcast on ITunes named "Fighter and the Kid" and has recently branded the title for a fashion line of t-shirts. "I’m very glad that I can build my own brand. In other sports like the NFL or NBA—I wouldn’t have that freedom. I’m blessed to have a career where I can build my own success. I could decide not to ever step in the octagon again and I would be successful outside of the UFC."  The numbers don’t lie either. His podcast has 1.5 million regular listeners and 1,200 t-shirts recently sold out in 8 minutes on his website. Schaub will be adding to his resume through TV, as he takes joins ESPN’s SportsCenter team on May 21-24 for UFC 187. There’s also the possibility of "Fighter and the Kid" moving to television as well.

Living in California puts Schaub a long way from Boulder, but he’s never missed a Buffs game and sees progress with Coach Mac and the team. It’s going to take time to build the program back to the top levels of college football but the proud Buffaloes alum is optimistic with the direction the program is headed. Schaub tours around the country and speaks to many athletic programs. His message remains the same,  "The Juice is worth a squeeze". It’s the same motto that he’s lived by being one of the most successful CU alumni at just the age of 32. Regardless of where life takes Schaub, he remains very humble and is a Buff for life.