If a person was to look up the meaning of the word “leader” in Elkin High School’s dictionary, Daniel Brinegar would be there, because last year, the man defined it.
Brinegar, a 2015 graduate of Elkin High School and freshman football player at Catawba College, continues to be a leader, a trait he earned throughout his final year as a Buckin’ Elk. His path to success seemed to be planned out just more than a year ago, looking like he’d be a solid pitcher on the mound for baseball, but life had different plans.
In his first season coaching with Elkin, baseball head coach and football assistant coach Nick Tomlin pulled Brinegar aside and persuaded him to make a decision that would ultimately change his path.
“At first, [Brinegar] wasn’t even thinking of playing football,” Tomlin said. “I told him, ‘I need you to play.’”
And he did. Brinegar, who started the fall season running cross country, suddenly was in pads, ready to play in his first game of the season. As time went on, Brinegar began to transition into an all-around versatile athlete who was tough to stop. That’s when Catawba approached him for an offer to play football.
“I looked at myself and said, ‘I might be able to do something like this,”’ Brinegar said. “I was really worried when I told my dad that I was going to play football over baseball, but I knew they’d support me every step of the way, rooting me on. It feels good knowing you have that type of support.”
Brinegar and his group of seniors struggled early on in the season, but pulled together to earn a share of the Mountain Valley Athletic Conference title.
“His leadership capabilities were obvious to me from the beginning. He’s the kind of guy who would lead by example and pull them along,” Tomlin said. “That’s very rare.”
Following the football season, Brinegar had another challenge on his hands as the only senior on the baseball team. The team pulled together a strong run, but fell flat in the first round of the conference playoffs to Alleghany. The following day, Brinegar signed to play football at Catawba.
After graduation, Brinegar didn’t get much time off, transitioning quickly to summer classes and football practices at Catawba. Brinegar redshirted this year while learning the game at the college level, and working just as hard in the classroom — he boasts a 4.0 GPA following the first semester.
“It was definitely different going to Catawba, but the thing that really helped me was Coach Tomlin. Before practice we’d have a pre-game speech on what we could do. My role is to get our defense better every week. You’re not there to get stats,” Brinegar said.
Brinegar, if he continues to improve, will likely get more playing time next season as the Indians try to defend the South Atlantic Conference title.
Daniel Brinegar is the son of Ava and Dr. Richard Brinegar. Brinegar has two brothers, Joshua and Paul.
Ryan DeCosta can be reached at 336-258-4052 or via Twitter @rsdecosta.