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Student of the Game


Walk-on Defensive Back Brentley Harstad helping improve the Owls' secondary

Following Florida Atlantic’s 30-17 loss to Michigan State, redshirt-sophomore Brentley Harstad found himself playing in Sunday afternoon’s Toilet Bowl, unlike most players who had seen game action the day before. Despite his 14 plays, 3 tackles and full series of special team’s action against the Spartans, the Owls' coaching staff wants Harstad too learn as much as he can.

But Harstad uses the opportunity to impress.

“Coaches want to see what you’re going to do, and the most hard working kid out there is going to stand out,” Harstad said of his time extra practice time in the Toilet Bowl.

And Harstad is no stranger to hard work. A defensive back who has played corner, safety, and nickel back since initially walking-on to the program back in 2008, Harstad recently earned a scholarship at the conclusion of fall camp for his effort and skills that were good enough to impress coaches.

“I was working really hard during camp, and it paid off, because coach (Howard) Schnellenberger recognized it,” Harstad said of the scholarship he received.

Starting at the nickel back position in the first game of the season, Harstad made arguably the biggest play of his young career when he intercepted a tipped pass and returned it 38 yards for a touchdown sparking FAU’s comeback win over UAB.

“That was huge - it’s real big for me knowing that I can go in there and change the game like that,” Harstad said of the score.

Already having a productive start to the season with seven tackles and the interception, Harstad has helped contribute to a defense that is only giving up 110.5 passing yards a game, a big improvement from the Owls 232.6 yard average last season.

However, he hasn’t only made his mark as the team's nickel back, he also contributes to all of the special team units and is quickly developing at the free safety position, something that FAU coaches would like to see.

“He’s also got to learn to play back at safety, to the point where he can spell in there,” Defensive Coordinator Kurt Van Valkenburgh said of Harstad’s development. “We’ve got to get him schooled up.”

As always is the case, the hardworking defensive back is up for the challenge.

“Safety has always been my heart,” Harstad said. “But I also like nickel back too, because I’m a physical player and I like being at the linebacker level.”


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