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Brandstater didnt get to play but he understands the process
Tom Brandstater was dared by a Denver Broncos teammate to sport his old man’s haircut during the team’s preseason game against the San Francisco 49ers on Friday night. - photo by CHHUN SUN / The Journal
SAN FRANCISCO — There is no way to know for sure what Tom Brandstater would have done with the football Friday night.
He didn’t get his chance to play in an NFL setting before a huge crowd enthralled about a game that truly didn’t matter between the San Francisco 49ers and the Denver Broncos. This was, essentially, an audition for Brandstater.
He arrived at the stadium as the No. 3 quarterback for the Broncos, a rookie sporting an old man’s hairdo — as it really needed a toupee  — to go along with a wicked-looking mustache. He expected some field time.
“Yeah, it was kind of unfortunate,” he said.
Brandstater looked like he was in a hurry to leave the small visiting locker room at Candlestick Park afterward. His head was shaved, meaning that his bet with a veteran teammate to keep the look for Friday night’s preseason game was a done deal.
He didn’t have a very happy look on his face. He had spent three hours on the sidelines, while about 100 friends and family members were scattered in the stands hoping to catch a glimpse of the former Fresno State and Turlock High standout play on a professional football field — which is a very rare feat for someone with his upbringing.
Brandstater never got his shot.
And folks wondered why.

Waiting his turn

It’s been said that Brandstater is in an ideal situation. He’s a rookie who’s third on the quarterback depth chart.
There are veterans in the league who are fighting for that kind of recognition.
But that doesn’t mean Brandstater gets things handed to him. (Well, except for that clipboard and headset third-string quarterbacks usually sport on the sidelines every Sunday.) So, he knows it’s going to take a little time, a little more practice.
It was just that Friday was perfect. It was his one chance of playing in front of the people who supported him over the years — his family, his friends, his former coaches. They were there, all watching, waiting and hoping this hometown hero would be granted a snap or two.
“I don’t think there’s anyone out there who doesn’t want his son to play professional football,” said his father, William, days earlier.
Of course, no one can predict what’s going to happen during a pro football game. And this showdown — between a 49ers team looking to break away from another bad season and a Broncos team that has drastically changed during the offseason mainly due to the hiring of coach Josh McDaniels — was a good one.

The quarterback situation

The Broncos have one of the most intriguing quarterback competitions heading into the regular season.
And it didn’t come without controversy.
After McDaniels was hired, he engineered a blockbuster trade that sent Pro Bowl quarterback Jay Cutler with a fifth-round choice in the recent NFL Draft to the Chicago Bears for Kyle Orton and Chicago’s first-round selection next year.
Orton was named the starter, with Chris Simms, who signed with the Broncos in March, as the backup.
Where does Brandstater, who inked a four-year deal with the Broncos, fit into all this? He’s the one watching and waiting and learning from quarterbacks who have been in this situation before — being the backup’s backup quarterback.
“The coaches are dealing with it,” he said. “They know what they’re doing. I trust their judgment. I’m going to get ready for it. I’ll keep working until then.”
And what Brandstater saw Friday night was what everyone else saw: Uncertainty. Orton threw three interceptions in the first half before Simms, the backup, came in and kept the Broncos in the tight preseason game, though they eventually lost 17-16.
That meant the third-string quarterback never got his chance.

The aftermath

It wasn’t easy finding Brandstater in the visiting locker room, a small and cramped area in Candlestick’s old, old building.
Plus, Brandstater had gotten rid of his old man’s haircut and that mustache.
“The hair cut was a rookie thing,” he said. A veteran teammate offered him a huge chunk of change — we’re talking NFL money here — to leave that look on for the preseason game. “It was a hard couple days looking a fool, but I’m glad I did it. It was all fun, kind of being a rookie and I enjoyed that whole process.”
There he was, in the corner of the room, changing into something more comfortable to later meet up with his father. He had a look of disappointment. But he said he understands why he didn’t get to play. He’s over it.
“Things didn’t work out the right way for whatever reason,” Brandstater said. “I’m sure I’ll get playing time the next game, so I’m not too worried about it.”
Next game is Saturday night, when the Broncos play in Seattle.
At least he doesn’t have to sport a ridiculous look again.
“It’s been so much fun, it’s a dream come true,” he said. “It’s a lot of work, and I wake up every day wanting to go to work. That’s the fun part about it.”
To contact Chhun Sun, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2041.