Given a chance, Ravens third-team quarterback Bryn Renner shows he can deliver
By Ryan Baillargeon
The Baltimore Sun|
Aug 17, 2015 at 6:01 PM
"If you make a mistake, don't let it linger and don't let it hang around," rookie QB Bryn Renner said. "I think that's what our whole offensive team did today on that last drive." (Kevin Richardson/Baltimore Sun video)
Less than a year ago, Bryn Renner was cleaning golf carts in North Carolina. Then last Thursday, the third-string quarterback was the hero who orchestrated the Ravens' game-winning drive in their first preseason game against the New Orleans Saints.
It's been a whirlwind two years for Renner. It started with a season-ending shoulder injury Nov. 2, 2013, in his senior year at North Carolina. After going undrafted, he signed with the Denver Broncos but was cut during the preseason. Then, in October, he agreed to a deal with an Arena Football League team but never reported. Instead, he worked at the Golf Club at Chapel Ridge.
During that time, though, Renner said he did not stop believing he had what it took to be a quarterback in the NFL. And as Renner tries to prove that with the Ravens this preseason, he hasn't forgotten what it was like to be away from the game.
"On Saturdays, when you are used to suiting up and playing for Carolina, you are going to do the golf carts and got your headphones in just waiting for another opportunity," Renner said. "It was a very humbling experience and I learned a ton from it, but I never lost faith."
Most Ravens fans probably had no idea who Renner was before this past Thursday, but he stole the show after capping an 80-yard, two-minute drill drive with a one-yard, diving touchdown off a bootleg.
It was a distinguished moment for Renner, but his chances to make the team remain slim — Matt Schaub, the 12th-year quarterback who in March signed a one-year contract with the Ravens, appears entrenched as Joe Flacco's backup. The team hasn't carried three quarterbacks during the regular season since 2009.
Coaches and teammates were nonetheless impressed with what they saw out of the second-year signal-caller Thursday after his interception on the previous drive resulted in the Saints' go-ahead touchdown.
"He throws a pick and gets himself an awesome two-minute drill and shows that he can bounce back and he's tough and he can play," Flacco said after the 30-27 win. "It was really awesome."
Offensive coordinator Marc Trestman said Monday that Renner showed he could move past mistakes.
"He put some good plays on tape," Trestman said. "He showed that he can overcome some adversity during the course of the game and gain his composure and get in the huddle, call the plays and execute the offense."
It didn't surprise Renner's father, Bill, a longtime high school coach and former NFL punter, who coached his son at West Springfield in Virginia, about 60 miles south of Baltimore. It's the type of talent he grew accustomed to watching as a father and a coach.
Bryn spent nearly his whole childhood around the game. Bill said his son started sitting in on his coaches' meetings when he was 3 years old and was a ball boy on the sidelines before high school.
"Being [the son of] a high school football coach, you are around football your entire life," Bryn said. "You see guys go to college and then eventually play in the NFL. That was always my dream, and it has been instilled in me since I was little."
But even though the Broncos signed him after he went undrafted in 2014, Renner did not feel like he was given an opportunity. Peyton Manning took most of the repetitions during practice, and Renner didn't see any action in three preseason games before he was cut.
"I got released five times in the NFL, so I had a pretty good idea of what he was going through and could relate and could help him through that," Bill said.
It left Renner without football for the first time since he was a kid.
"It was miserable ... for the first fall not to go to practices or meetings, you gain more appreciation for it," he said.
To keep busy and make some money, he took a job at the golf club. After waking up early to do football drills with his dad, he would head to the course to clean carts, put them away, and close the place after dark.
In the meantime, the Ravens invited him to throw last year, during their bye week in mid-November. He did the same for the New York Jets at the end of the season, but neither organization gave him a shot until he agreed to a reserve/future contract with the Ravens on Jan. 12.
"I'm a guy that never gives up hope," Renner said. "I kept working out, kept working my tail off and was just praying for an opportunity and someone to give me a look."
He said he has tried to be a "sponge" during training camp, learning from veterans Flacco and Schaub. And though the Broncos didn't get Renner snaps last year, the Ravens found time for him in the first preseason game. He made the most of it.
"This time last year, I was just standing there," Renner said. "But now this year it's a whole different story, and I'm just excited and trying to make the most of my opportunities."