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Brock Vereen: New kind of feeling

Brock Vereen is enjoying his most successful college season

Posted: December 27, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: December 27, 2012 1:55 a.m.

Minnesota defensive back and Valencia High graduate Brock Vereen (21) tracks down a Nebraska player on Nov. 17 in Lincoln, Neb.

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A year ago, University of Minnesota defensive back and Valencia High School graduate Brock Vereen was spending Christmas with his family.

It was fun, but not necessarily where he wanted to be.

In two seasons at the school, he had won a combined six games and never played in a bowl.

“I’m sure I speak for most of us on the team, these last two seasons all you see on TV are bowl games and there’s that sense of anger,” Vereen says.

This year, that’s all about to change.

The Golden Gophers finished the regular season 6-6 overall, 2-6 in Big 10 play. That was good enough to earn a bowl appearance in the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas in Houston on Friday against one of the nation’s most prolific offenses: Texas Tech University.

“After that win at Illinois (to become bowl eligible), that experience, the emotions, the look on all the teammates’ faces,” Vereen says. “It was great moment I’ll never forget.”

As a defensive back, playing against Texas Tech means Vereen is going to have his hands full.

But it means something else, too.

Vereen is going to have a lot of fun.

“It’s no secret that they are a high-profile offense,” says Vereen of the Red Raiders. “They come out, they throw the ball and are really, really efficient at it. It’s a game as a defensive back you want. You want that pressure on the defensive backfield. All the DBs are excited and ready to be tested and step up the challenge.”

Texas Tech finished the regular season ranked second among Football Bowl Subdivision schools with 361.9 passing yards per game.

Vereen accumulated two interceptions, 54 tackles and eight pass breakups in 12 games played this year.

Just because he isn’t home for the holidays this year doesn’t mean he won’t still be with his family.

Vereen’s parents traveled to Texas on Christmas Day and were able to spend the evening with Vereen.

“It’s so exciting for all of us. There’s nothing like a bowl game,” says Vereen’s mother, Venita. “We had family come in from Illinois. We came from all over. We’re having a great time.”

And for Brock, it’s a much better way to spend the holiday.

“Last year, spending Christmas as a family at home was cool, but to be able to spend it in Texas and turn right around and have a game after that — it’s going to be a great time. I can’t wait.”

Playing in the bowl game isn’t just something that will be nice for Vereen. It’s a turning point for a program that has struggled over his first two seasons.

“There’s no question about that, coach (Jerry) Kill has installed this new mentality, this new vibe and atmosphere around here,” the Minnesota junior says. “It’s a positive one and now that we bought into it, we’re going to see some improvement. This game has a lot of potential to build a lot of momentum going into the offseason, spring ball and next season. A win in this bowl game will put us that much closer.”

Whatever happens, Vereen is looking forward to continuing that process next season.

He has another goal for next year too, though: to graduate.

“My parents did a great job of making sure academies would be first growing up and coming to college, Coach Kill and the administration are as hard on academics as they are in football. And that’s a great foundation,” Vereen says.

And when that day comes that Vereen walks across the stage at his Minnesota graduation, he has lofty goals for what comes next.

His dream would be to join his brother Shane, a running back for the New England Patriots, in the National Football League.

“I get an opportunity to talk to him every day. Watching him go through college and being successful, he’s been able to give me insight and help me,” Brock says. “But it’s almost ritual to play my game on Saturday and watch him do his thing on Sunday.”

And if the NFL doesn’t work out, Vereen hopes he can turn his communication degree into a job as a sports broadcaster.

“That would be a dream job for me, beyond a career in the NFL,” he says.

First things first, though, Texas Tech is waiting and Vereen is ready to put the pads back on.

“It’s going to be great. It’s a great reward for the coaches, players, fans even,” Vereen says. “And a great opportunity for the university.”

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