Austin Brannen is a tackling machine. For the past two seasons, the Steinbrenner linebacker has ranked among the state’s leaders in that category, finishing with 130 tackles as a sophomore in 2018 and 153 as a junior last season.
It was not always this way. Growing up, Brannen was just as adept at running through tackles as he was making them. That rugged style helped him earn an enduring nickname. Here are a few more things to know about the rising senior.
Brannen lives on seven acres of farmland in Odessa. The farm has been a part of his family for more than 50 years. It has chickens, ducks, horses, pigs and turkeys. There also are massive vegetable gardens and citrus trees.
The farm is located near several lakes. Because of that, Brannen developed a love for fishing at an early age. He usually goes fishing with friends on the weekends. Brannen’s biggest catch? An eight-pound bass.
Brannen started playing the sport when he was 4. “My parents wanted me to start playing sports, and my dad is a big football fan, so he signed me up for football, and I’ve loved it ever since,” he said. The only other sport Brannen played was baseball in the seventh grade.
Brannen has always been a linebacker, even in youth leagues. But he also played fullback early on. His playing style mimicked that of Mike Alstott, the former Tampa Bay Buccaneer fullback who is now the coach at Northside Christian. Brannen even started wearing No. 40, Alstott’s number with the Bucs. The youth league coaches also started calling Brannen “bull”, a nickname that has continued in high school.
By racking up so many tackles the past two seasons, Brannen has got the attention of colleges. He has offers from Monmouth, Warner and Whittier. Making a decision is something that can wait. “I’m keeping my options open to be able to attend the best school for me,” he said.