Capital High senior running back/cornerback Gunnar Brekke fittingly capped his explosive, record-setting career with the state’s highest honor on Thursday, being named the 2012-13 Montana Gatorade Football Player of the Year.
“I was a little surprised — I knew I got nominated, but I wasn’t so sure I’d win it,” said Brekke, who finished with the most career rushing yards (2,415) and highest career yards-per-carry average (7.4) in Bruin history after running for the fifth-most yards in a season (1,285) this year. “I’m very grateful for everyone who went on this crazy journey with me — it was awesome. I want to thank my parents first and foremost, as well as my friends, coaches, teammates and everyone who supported me along the way.”
Brekke, the second straight Bruin and third in four years to receive the award, was also named a two-way Class AA first-team all-state selection in his final prep season. His first-team offensive selection was his second straight, after he added 16 rushing touchdowns and 308 yards receiving to his career totals. He added 56 tackles and three interceptions on defense, improving on his second-team all-state performance as a junior.
“It’s well deserved,” Capital head coach Pat Murphy said. “People don’t realize the time and dedication and work he has put in to be the player he is. And the award’s not only based on athletics — it’s also based on GPA and community service. You look at those things and I think that’s where Gunnar really shined. Getting two in a row off our team is pretty cool — now we’re just waiting for that lifetime supply of Gatorade.”
Brekke has maintained a 3.53 GPA and has volunteered locally on behalf of a church construction project and flood relief efforts.
He joins Caleb Kidder (2011-12) and Matt Miller (2009-10) as recent Gatorade award winners from Capital, and is the sixth Bruin overall to earn the honor.
“It obviously means a lot to join the likes of Kidder and Miller and everyone else who won it from Capital, as well as around the state,” Brekke said of the award. “It’s truly an honor. I went to work with it as a goal this summer and I ran, I lifted and I did everything I needed to do. My main goal was to win state, but winning the Gatorade award is something I am very humbled by.”
Brekke, who ran for the second-most yards in Capital history with 251 in a season-opening 32-25 overtime win over Big Sky, was also named Western AA’s offensive most valuable player and was a two-way first-team all-conference selection.
“You look at the players who have come through Capital, for him to have those two key records (career rushing yards and per-carry average) says a lot of what kind of career Gunnar had — and that’s just as at running back,” Murphy said. “He was a three-year starter for us on defense and two years at running back. I can’t say enough of what he meant for our football team. This year our entire offensive line was juniors and we haven’t had that happen before. They were pretty good, but they were still young, and he took that and rushed for well over 1,000 yards. He was probably our best player and our most versatile player. He could run, throw, catch; we lined him up at quarterback, receiver, running back, cornerback, safety — he is one of those rare athletes who could play pretty much any spot.”
Narles Layne (2001-03) held the previous Capital record for career rushing yards with 2,379 before Brekke surpassed that in his final prep game.
“Breaking Narles’ record was awesome, too,” Brekke said. “I didn’t even know I did that. I didn’t know I was on track to do that. The coaches just told me I had done it a couple weeks ago. To be talked about in that same conversation is a huge honor.”
The Bruins, picked by that state’s coaches as the favorite to win a second-straight AA title before the season, finished just 5-6 and dropped a late lead to lose out in the first round of the playoffs in heartbreaking fashion to top-seeded Glacier 21-13.
“We went through so many struggles as a team this year — losing (starting quarterback Cale Jacobsen) was rough and things just didn’t go the way we wanted,” Brekke said. “It was a grind all year, but we kept our noses down, worked hard, and put the wins behind us and losses behind us and took it one game at a time. I’m very proud of how we handled this year as a team, and that’s what I’ll remember most about it. We still came out of it as a team.”
Brekke will rejoin Kidder as a member of the University of Montana football team next fall after verbally committing to the school last summer. What position he’ll play in Missoula, though, is still very much in the air.
“It’s still the same deal,” Brekke said. “They told me they’re recruiting me as an athlete, and they’ll end up putting me where they’ll put me. Like I said before, I just want to play football and help the team.”