Football’s Miles Austin III and baseball’s Brad Brach ’08 are two of the University’s most iconic athletes and they were inducted into the Athletics Hall of Fame on Dec. 9 as the Class of 2016.
Austin left West Long Branch as the all-time leader in receptions (150), yards (2,867), touchdowns (33), and scoring (216 points). He led the blue and white to back-to-back NEC (Northeast Conference) Championships in 2003 and 2004 and was a three-time First Team All-Conference selection.
Austin became the first Hawk to sign with a National Football league (NFL) team when he signed with the Dallas Cowboys in 2006 and became a two-time Pro Bowler (2009-10). He hauled in 361 passes for 5,273 yards and 37 touchdowns over his 10-year NFL career with the Cowboys, Cleveland Browns and Philadelphia Eagles.
Austin mentioned that Bill Parcells, who was the head coach at Dallas at the time, found out about him through his connections in New Jersey.
“He had a scout come here and check me out in like 40 degree weather and my tight ends coach was throwing to me,” Austin said. “It was basically like what resembled a pro day, I guess it was the first of its kind here. I was just running routes and catching passes and I ran my 40-yard dash in the old basketball gym. I eventually got picked up by Dallas and the rest is history.”
It took Austin until the middle of the 2009 season to become a viable contributor on offense. But he took that opportunity and never looked back. He got his first start on Oct. 11 of that season and broke the franchise record for receiving yards in a single game (250) that still stands today.
Austin started every game from that point on and caught 81 passes for an NFL leading 1,320 yards and 11 touchdowns and made his first of two consecutive Pro Bowls. He started all 16 games the following season and hauled in 69 passes for 1,041 yards and seven touchdowns.
“Those were great experiences,” Austin said when asked about playing in the Pro Bowl. “The first one was in Hawaii and the second one was in Miami and my family was able to come to both. To be able to share those experiences with your loved ones and to compete against those guys at a high level was great and something that you never forget.”
Monmouth Football Head Coach Kevin Callahan remains the only head coach in program history, and he has nothing but praise for the guy who put Monmouth football on the map.
“Miles’ induction to the Monmouth Athletic Hall of Fame is a testament to all that he accomplished in his standout career,” Callahan said. “He has always represented himself and Monmouth at the highest level, and we are proud to say that he is an alumnus of the Monmouth Football Program.”
While Austin shined on the gridiron, Brach found his success on the diamond. He came to West Long Branch after a career at Freehold Township High School. At Monmouth, Brach was the NEC Pitcher of the Year in 2007, was named First Team All-NEC twice and remains the program’s all-time leader in wins (29), strikeouts (277) and innings pitched (324.1). He threw a no-hitter on April 13, 2007 against Long Island University – the first Monmouth no-hitter in 17 years at the time – and finished his four year career in blue and white with a 2.44 earned run average (ERA).
“My most memorable moment at Monmouth was winning the 2007 conference championship, when we got to play a regional at ASU (Arizona State),” Brach said. “We had my best friends and my brother (Brett) on that team and to go out there with them and play a team like that was an experience unlike any other.”
Brach was drafted by the San Diego Padres in the 42nd round of the 2008 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft and made his major league debut in August 2011. He appeared in 67 games out of the bullpen for San Diego in 2012 and bounced back and forth between San Diego and Triple-A Tucson in 2013 before being traded to the Baltimore Orioles before the 2014 season.
“The fans (in Baltimore) have been great,” Brach said. “Growing up in the northeast, I know how passionate the fans are. They really love you and live and die by every game. Baltimore is a very blue-collar city and they really enjoy watching us go out and play all 162 games. They have been better than you can really ask for.”
Brach has become one of the better relief pitchers in baseball since then. He went 7-1 with a 3.18 ERA in 2014 and posted a 2.72 ERA over 79.1 innings in 2015.
“I think the biggest thing has been the development and his confidence to use his change-up. It has become a very effective swing-and-miss pitch for him and it keeps the timing of the hitters off balance,” said Jim Hunter, who has been a member of the Orioles’ broadcast team since 1997.
“The other thing is that he’s actually added velocity since he’s gotten here,” Hunter added. “When they acquired him, they acquired potential and he has developed into a tremendous back-end of the bullpen arm. This was a really good trade by (Orioles General Manager) Dan Duquette because the guy they traded is not even in baseball anymore.”
Brach put himself on the radar with an excellent 2016 campaign. He went 10-4 with a 2.05 ERA and was named an American League All-Star, becoming the first Hawk to be named to a Major League Baseball All-Star Game.
The game was at Petco Park in San Diego – the home of the team that drafted Brach out of Monmouth in 2008.
“It was really cool to go back there. I have a brother who lives in San Diego now and I couldn’t have asked for a better scenario,” Brach said. “To get to experience that in the stadium where I played my first Major League games in was incredible.”
“Everything went really quick. It was a little overwhelming, just because there is so much to do in a short amount of time. It was definitely well worth it and I hope I get another chance to do it,” Brach added.
Brach struck out 92 batters in 79 innings in 2016 and held opposing hitters to a .201 batting average. He will return to the Orioles’ bullpen in 2017 and remain a key cog in one of the best bullpens in all of baseball.
“Brad exemplifies what it takes to wear the uniform at Monmouth,” Monmouth Baseball Head Coach Dean Ehehalt said. “I know he felt it was an honor to be inducted. I can’t say enough positive things about Brad Brach and the Brach Family. His induction was very deserving and I know he was proud of the honor as he is an incredibly classy individual.”
Since Brach graduated, Monmouth Athletics has switched from the NEC to the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC). But he is excited to see where the program has come since then and what the future has in store.
“It has been incredible to watch,” Brach said. “I like to watch Friday night basketball games on ESPN3 and it’s great to see our teams move into a bigger conference. Hopefully they can keep growing the program.”
While both Austin and Brach have gone onto shine in the national spotlight, they will never forget where they came from.
“It means a lot to know that the University would be so kind to invite me into their Hall of Fame and to be amongst the others who were already inducted,” Austin said. “This will also keep me connected with the University in another way and I am honored to be a part of it.”
“This is a huge honor. This might be the biggest honor I get athletically,” Brach said. “The All Star Game is great but for me, this is more of a team accomplishment. Getting to play with these guys and to be inducted here is something that I will cherish forever.”
“This place means so much to me,” Brach added, “that I can’t even begin to describe and I don’t want to take all the time to describe just how much Monmouth means to me. This is where I learned how to pitch at a high level, where I learned how to be a professional and basically how to be a man, because this is where I grew up.”
PHOTO COURTESY of Monmouth University Athletics