When St. Ed’s seniors Andrew Brown and Nicholas Pennell signed college letters of intent at a ceremony on April 12, it became obvious that the schools they selected were destinations tailor-made for continuing to develop and prosper as student-athletes.
The University of Denver was the perfect fit for Brown in more ways than one. Southeastern University in Lakeland has a familiarity that should make Pennell feel like it is the next best thing to the comforts of home.
“I’ve been out to Denver before with my family and what stuck out for me about the University of Denver was the excellent business program,” Brown explained. “When I was first interested it seemed like kind of an unrealistic goal for me because the swimming team is so competitive. But when the coaches reached out to me I knew that this was where I wanted to go.”
Brown has been swimming competitively at St. Ed’s it seems like forever. He finished his senior year by medaling in the 50 freestyle and 100 butterfly at the state meet. He is a finalist for All-Area Boys Swimmer of the Year.
A few hours after the official signing, Brown was in the pool at the end of the school day. He would be back in the water early the following morning. That’s the type of dedication and hard work he is known for.
“I was motivated to put in all of the hours of swimming because I guess I saw some potential in myself,” Brown told us. “I love to improve any way I can and swimming is the kind of sport that offered that to me. It’s a pretty logical sport and you’re always competing against yourself. I was always able to put in my best effort knowing that.”
Brown has attended St. Ed’s since pre-K while Pennell was more of a one-and-done. He enrolled as a senior and discovered that playing football for the Pirates entailed more than he expected.
“I played sports for Master’s Academy, but I was actually dual-enrolled as a home schooler and at Indian River College,” Pennell said. “I was really excited to come here for the chance to excel at academics and sports. In my only year at St. Ed’s I learned things that I feel I would not have learned if I didn’t come here.
“When I joined the football team I was really overwhelmed by the schedule Coach Motta had us on – and the type of strength training and conditioning that he had us going through. I really didn’t understand it at first. I thought it was a lot to go through, especially throughout the summer when we were working out and he told us this is what it takes once the season starts, and kids get hurt, and it’s in the fourth quarter and you’re needed. He made us push on.
“It was amazing. We had only about 15 kids for most of the season, and due to injuries in some games we had only 11. But it was just like he said, we needed that fourth-quarter push. It taught me something that I had never learned before – something you actually have to go through to learn.
“You have to fight for what you want and earn it every single time. Coming here and learning that made this the best year of my high school life.”
Pennell said the lessons he learned playing football at St. Ed’s helped him cope with academic challenges as well. “I’m going to focus on a business major and play football at Southeastern University. Mostly I just want to succeed in all of my courses. What I learned at St. Ed’s will definitely help me in college.
“I’m looking to be a running back, but I will play any position they put me at. As long as I’m on the team and doing my part to help, I will be happy with it.”
Pennell’s brother attended Southeastern, so he is already familiar with the atmosphere and knows quite a few people there.
Brown has been out to Colorado to visit his grandparents every summer since he was a little kid – and says it’s like a second home to him. He wants to study either finance, international business or real estate.
“Leaving won’t be a huge shock because I love it out there,” Brown said. “But leaving family and friends is going to be an adjustment. They have followed me throughout this whole journey, and I have been there for them.”
Pennell said, “I’m excited but also kind of sad that I’m leaving my family. I grew up in Vero but I’m ready to meet new friends and make new memories at Southeastern.”