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Wrenn brings winning ways to MIT

LO product helps turn academic giant into unlikely football powerhouse

Photo Credit: DAVID SILVERMAN - Andrew Wrenn of Lake Oswego helped the MIT football team achieve an unprecedented combination of brains and brawn this season.The last term you would apply to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is “football factory.”

Yes, it has been called the most important university in the world. In fact, football is probably the biggest afterthought of any program at this academic titan.

Until this year.

The Engineers used to get less than no respect. Their football history includes such disasters as a 96-0 loss to Yale in 1886, the student body voting to abandon the program in 1901, the team itself voting to disband in 1941, the MIT Athletic Board voting unanimously against bringing back a football team in 1966, and a mind-blowing 88-year streak of not winning a game. It all amounts to over a century of ineptitude.

But not in 2014.

Instead, MIT football won shocked and delighted praise for going unbeaten for most of this season, not dropping a single contest until the second round of the NCAA Division III Football Plays. The New York Times, no less, called it a “eureka moment” when the Engineers clinched their first playoff football berth. CBS News called it “Revenge of the Nerds.” The Engineers were called “The Greatest Football team you’ve never seen” by The Boston Globe.

Eat your heart out, Alabama.

And one reason all of this unexpected gridiron glory happened is a young man from Lake Oswego, Andrew Wrenn, a 6-2 250 sophomore and starting defensive lineman.

Wrenn does not do any trash talking or chest pounding about his team’s fantastic season. He is humble, grateful and shocked about its success.

“I never expected to win,” Wrenn admitted. “When he started the season we said ‘Let’s win our first game.’ When we won that, we said, ‘Let’s win our next game.’ Then we won them all.”

That is until the Engineers lost to Wesley College in the second round of the NCAA playoffs on Nov. 29. By a score of 59-0. But nobody in New England wants to talk about that last game. They want to talk about the first 10.

A lot of credit goes to Wrenn, a young man who had more sprained ankles (3) than he had tackles (2) in his freshman season in 2013. He was one of a group of young defensive players who came through in a totally unexpected way.

“Our defense this season was mostly sophomores and juniors,” Wrenn said. “We were going in huge on younger kids. There was a question of whether we could play defense when it mattered.”

After his un-sterling freshman season, Wrenn said, “I wasn’t expecting to be a starter. But I had a lot of experience with smart football programs under Coach (Steve) Coury and Coach (Greg) Lord. There are a lot of defensive lineman stronger than me, but I understand what I need to do. It was playing at Lake Oswego High that made me love football.”

Unlike MIT football, when Wrenn was playing football in Lake Oswego it was a shock when the Lakers lost. Of course, one season they didn’t lose at all, becoming the undefeated state champions in 2011.

When this golden era ended, however, Wrenn did not think much about playing college football. He was a wiz in math and science and a good enough student to be accepted by MIT, a school that accepts only 8 percent of the 18,000 high school seniors who apply there every year.

As it turned out, Wrenn played and MIT won, and now football fans back East realize MIT has a football team. A really good football team. And for once they will be expected to be good again in 2015.

Yet there are still some footballic challenges to be conquered.

“Our football stadium only seats 300 fans,” Wrenn said. “It’s not like playing in Les Schwab Bowl in the state championship game.”

Yet as has been proven in sports time and time again, if you win games the fans will come.

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