Senior running back reflects on unusual path to Sun Devil football

Jacom Brimhall went from his high school end zone to a Mexico City mission before playing for ASU

Jacom Brimhall always loved the game of football, he just wasn't sure it would love him back. 

At 5-foot-8, he was never the ideal size coaches were looking for despite back-to-back record breaking seasons at Mountain View High School in Mesa. But after his senior year with the program, Brimhall had plans that extended past the endzone. 

He served a Latter Day Saints mission in Mexico City after high school graduation. He said those who doubted him thought his size and time away from the game would hinder his ability to play for the Sun Devils, but he was determined to prove them wrong. 

Football beginnings

Brimhall was raised around football, which immediately started him down the path to becoming a player.

He said his first words were something like "hut hut."

“What I would do was I would pretend to hike a football between my legs and I’d just run out and my dad would pretend to throw me a pass," Brimhall said.

At the age of six, he was given the chance to play tackle football in Pop Warner. Once Brimhall carried the ball, he never looked back.

However, his stardom quickly became little league drama for his parents, Arnold and Melynda Brimhall.

“Some parents loved that our kid could take the ball and score, and then others we could hear on the sidelines … we’d hear the parents say oh my gosh, why don’t you give it to somebody else,” Melynda said.

It wasn’t long before Jacom ignored his critics and transitioned to Mountain View. There he began working toward his dream of becoming a Sun Devil football player.

During his first two years as a Toro, Jacom flew under the radar. Once he got his chance on a varsity stage, he became a local celebrity.

“I went out there in the first game that I actually played in, I started, but I was seated to be the third-string running back,” Jacom said. “I wasn’t even supposed to get on the field. It’s just the other two guys ahead of me were starting on defense and they were too tired.”

Those two players, and the rest of Mountain View High School would watch Jacom’s natural talent takeover the field.

Over the course of his junior and senior seasons Jacom rushed for over 3,000 yards and more than 30 touchdowns

Jacom said he woke up each morning with a reminder of his football goals. He posted the number of yards needed to break the school's rushing record on his mirror.

In his senior year, he was voted "most valuable player" by his teammates.

Jacom Brimhall: The Man, the Myth, the Muscle Hamster from The State Press on Vimeo. Video Marcella Baietto.

From Mesa to Mexico City

Overcoming his small stature, Jacom was considered a top talent across the state at the end of his senior year. He said he was fielding calls from the likes of BYU, Colorado and Hawaii during the recruiting process.

But despite offers on the table, he said he was still contemplating the traditional act of service performed by those in the LDS church: a mission.

At 19, he faced a fork in the road: continue on to play college football, a dream he had his whole life, or to serve in his mission.

“As soon as I threw out the word I was going to serve a mission, pretty much all my phone calls stopped,” Brimhall said. “People stopped talking to me. They said contact us when you get back, and that was pretty much the end of it.”

After deciding to serve on the mission, Jacom was forced to watch those he had competed against and even beat sign on national letter of intent day.

“That was tough for him to swallow that, I’m not going to lie,” Arnold said."He was pretty sad that night.”

With no time to sulk, Jacom headed off to Mexico City for service. He knew little Spanish and had no idea how the next two years would play out.

“I couldn’t even say, 'I want a taco,'” Jacom said. 

He said his days started at 5:30 a.m. for a quick workout before his service began.Then after a brief morning studying the language and scripture, Jacom and the rest of the mission would go door to door serving and preaching.

Dinner came late at 9 p.m. and lights out followed at 10:30 p.m. This was a continuous routine for two years straight, helping Jacom develop what he said is his most valuable characteristic — discipline.

“The mission helped me learn what I needed to learn and then it timed out my life a little bit better so I’d be able to do it when I was supposed to,” Jacom said.

Becoming a Sun Devil

Jacom returned from his mission focused, and committed to finishing what he started. He was ready to enroll at BYU and pursue a future as a walk-on.

However enrollment issues at BYU, coupled with a new head coaching hire at ASU in Todd Graham, directed Jacom back to his original dream.

“It was Jacom’s dream to play at ASU, that has been his dream,” Melynda said. “His dad has been a fan his whole life and Jacom grew up the same way.”

On a whim, Jacom went to go watch an ASU practice. While there, he saw former teammate and friend Brandon Matthews, a linebacker at the time for the Sun Devils.

Matthews encouraged Jacom to walk-on. Jacom was hesitant at first, but he eventually was convinced to give it a shot

“I think Brandon was a very key person in making that all happen," Arnold said. "If it wasn’t for Brandon he would’ve been at BYU."

Graham gave Jacom his chance at earning a roster spot before the start of the 2014 season. After being tested on the field by his ASU idol Rudy Burgess, Jacom performed well enough to make the team as a walk-on and accomplish his childhood dream of being a Sun Devil.

In his early 20s, Jacom was a man among boys, working with the young walk-ons. 

Those young Sun Devils said he had “grown-man strength," and with his extreme toughness came a new nickname, "muscle hamster."

Related: ASU football's Jacom Brimhall, Mitchell Fraboni put on scholarship

Although Jacom was considered one of the stronger players on the team, his first trip through "Tillman tunnel" brought him to tears.

“I was just that blown away,” he said.

He has continued his disciplined work for the Sun Devils throughout the last three years, with multiple appearances on special teams. He was also awarded a scholarship from ASU athletics at the start of the 2015 season. 

Although he is focused on finishing his senior season and pursuing a career in physical therapy, he said he will always quiet the critics and continue setting his goals high.

“Throughout life it seems like everyone is kind of bringing you down," Jacom said. "But if you stay focused on yourself, stay focused on your goals, set those goals high, then if you believe in yourself then anything is possible."


Reach the reporter at atotri@asu.edu or follow @Anthony_Totri on Twitter.

Reach the videographer at mmbaiett@asu.edu or follow @marcellabaietto on Twitter.

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