Brandon Magee was struck in disbelief at practice Tuesday.
The redshirt senior linebacker’s eyes were mesmerized by Sun Devil Stadium in the distance.
“I’m about to step foot in there one more time?” Magee said in the moment. Senior Day approached faster than he expected.
Overcome with emotions, Magee choked up when asked about his final home game Saturday. He couldn’t even talk about Saturday’s game against Washington State and respectfully asked to end the interview.
“I was kind of surprised when you told me that (he choked up),” former ASU linebacker Vontaze Burfict said, who went to Centennial High with Magee in Corona, Calif. “He cares a lot. Let’s put it like that.”
His silence spoke louder than any of his comical one-liners. Magee was a boy entering ASU. The five years he spent in Tempe was his rite of passage through the lessons he’s learned academically, athletically and personally.
Magee will miss his academic coach, Corinne Corte.
He wasn’t big on the education aspect of college. His mother, Tia, said his focus out of high school was to play football with his Centennial High friends – linebacker Shelly Lyons and running back Ryan Bass.
“There’s no secret Brandon wasn’t the greatest student all the way through high school,” Tia said. “I don’t want to say he was terrified of going to college, but it just wasn’t a top priority for him until the opportunity presented itself and his friends were going to college.”
Brandon’s freshman year was as difficult as he thought it would be. Then he met Corte. She’s been the football academic coach since 1995. She sits down with the football players every Monday to help create calendars and plan out their homework schedules for the week.
“I wouldn’t even be eligible without Mrs. Corinne,” Brandon said.
Brandon was in her office everyday to get his work completed. He’s had a potato-shaped stress ball inside Corte’s office since his freshman year. It’s now ripped into two pieces with the eyes, nose and ears of the figure torn and nowhere to be found.
“I understand Brandon and how he feels about school and understand that sometimes it’s not what he wants to be doing,” Corte said. “I’ll just kind of leave him be and he always figures it out and does a really good job at it. I know when to question him and when to talk to him and I know when to let him be.”
Corte sparked Brandon’s appreciation of education and he’s grown the most in this area. Magee said Corte sent him reminders through texts about upcoming quizzes and taught him how to study.
She even worked on his mentality. Corte said Magee was always a negative person as he made the transition to college and gave him a big rubber band to put on his wrist. She told him to flick the rubber band every time he had a negative thought.
“She’s mentored him,” Tia said. “She’s helped tutor him and she’s just been phenomenal as his second mom — his mom away from me.”
Magee will miss Sun Devil football.
He posted a picture from his first game as a Sun Devil on Monday. Magee made his debut on Aug. 30, 2008, against Northern Arizona wearing No. 48.
“First college football game.. This Saturday is my last time playing at #SundevilStadium #Timeflys #Sundevilforlife #ASU,” Magee said on his Instagram account.
“That No. 48, I can’t stand that,” Magee said when reflecting on the photo. “The uniforms, those are the third uniforms we’ve worn. That’s crazy. I’ve been here for a while.”
He was supposed to have his Senior Day with Lyons last season until he ruptured his Achilles tendon before his senior season. He missed the entire year and it also ended his baseball career at ASU.
“I was honestly never upset,” Magee said. “I always smiled. There was an opportunity to get some rest, to get healthy and work on my body.”
Magee said he studied film excessively during his redshirt year. He collected 73 tackles during his junior season and it built his confidence. But he wasn’t satisfied. Magee felt he could make even more plays and told everyone he was going to come back better than ever.
“I like the part when you get hurt and you can go out and prove everybody wrong,” Magee said.
Magee missed a game due to a concussion, but he already has career-highs in tackles, sacks, tackles for loss, forced fumbles and interceptions. Magee is on pace to exceed 100 tackles this season. The last Sun Devil to record over 100 tackles in a season was Robert James in 2007.
“He’s been phenomenal, and there are Sundays he struggles just to jog,” coach Todd Graham said. “He has been great, along with everyone else. There is not one of them that I don’t have a great feeling towards, that’s worked hard for us. But Brandon has been a catalyst on the defensive side of the ball when it comes to that. I think he’s helped us to bring others with him.”
He’s already signed a contract with the Boston Red Sox. Magee was selected in the 23rd round of the 2012 MLB First-Year Player Draft. He will also train for the NFL Combine after the season and enter the NFL Draft.
But Magee said he hasn’t spent much time pondering on the future.
“My mentality right now is to focus on these last two games,” Magee said. “I look at it, but honestly, I don’t look at it that much. Right now, you really don’t know how the draft is going to work out.”
Magee will miss the fans and the community.
Tia works at an all-boys camp helping at-risk teenage boys. She raised Brandon as a single parent and always told him to be an active member in the community.
“We’ve done a lot of different things in the community growing up as kids for physically challenged children,” Tia said. “That was the type of environment he was raised up in.”
Magee didn’t have the time to reach out with baseball, football and academics until he injured his Achilles tendon.
Magee said he receives invitations to birthdays, barbeques, family events and workplaces all the time.
“I’ve been out to every one of them,” Magee said. “I’ve traveled to Ahwatukee, deep Chandler, Queen Creek. Fifty-minute drives we’re talking about. I honestly don’t ever have time for all of this, but I do it anyway.”
Even on the week of his last game at Sun Devil Stadium, Magee went out to a Little League game Wednesday to talk to kids about life lessons.
“It comes from the heart,” Tia said. “It has to because I don’t think a person his age has the time. Especially how tired he is and still goes out there in the community like he does, I think it’s rare.”
Tia thought her son might grow out of the habit to help the community, but he has become more aware of the world around him. She said he can’t get enough of it and it warms her heart to see him continue to serve.
“It’s genuine,” Burfict said. “He has a great attitude on and off the field. He’s going to go far in life with just that attitude.”
Magee said he choked up Tuesday because he was thinking about all the obstacles he overcame during the last five years. The lessons he’s learned from his baseball coaches, football coaches, Corte and even the women he’s encountered have helped him mature from the boy he was.
“I’m just a die hard Sun Devil,” Magee said. “It’s going to hurt come Senior Day. That’s just … man. Yeah, that’s going to hurt.”
While Tia expects her son to shed a few tears, Saturday will be a celebration of his ultimate accomplishment.
“He has become a man,” Tia said. “And that’s in the sense of the word — a man. He’s a man now. Leaving Arizona State University, he’s a man.”
Mr. Magee will miss Arizona State University.
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