Numbers? You want to talk Brayden Dorman’s numbers and Vista Ridge coach Mike Vrana can point to any scoreboard on the planet. And laugh.
116 passing touchdowns. 10,285 passing yards. 54 total touchdowns and 321 total yards per game as a senior. A state-best 49 passing touchdowns and 3,783 passing yards this fall.
Yet for all the accolades, all the records, all the ceilings shattered by that rocket right arm, this number might be Vrana’s favorite when it comes to Dorman, his senior quarterback and The Denver Post’s 2022 Gold Helmet winner:
Nine kids. At dawn. Picking up trash. Nine kids who were asked to come help at the last minute. Over spring break. And showed up anyway.
“I put a call out because we had to go pick up trash at one of the middle schools that feeds into (Vista Ridge),” Vrana recalled.
“And it just came about at the last minute, so we only rounded up maybe nine kids. But there was Brayden. There were some young guys, I had one lineman, a couple cheerleaders. One volleyball player, one soccer player.
“But Brayden led the thing. And I’m thinking to myself, ‘We’re picking up trash, and the wind’s going 100 miles per hour, and here’s the QB of my program picking up trash at 7 a.m. on a Saturday. Not because he has to be. But because he wants to be.’”
“I never backed down”
Brayden Dorman’s life walks to a simple, proactive line: He wants to leave it better than he found it. And “it” could be — well, anything.
A middle school playground. A community garden. The food pantry at a shelter. A box of donated coats. A blood drive. An assembly full of gawking third graders. A history project. A campus. A football program.
“I think it’s always bigger than football,” Dorman told The Post. “It’s always about giving back to the community. And that’s always stuck with me.”
For that, the assists go to nature and nurture, to good genes and even better hearts. To mother, Colleen, who works in health care, who inspired him to be supportive and empathetic; and to father, Todd, who ingrained the virtues of work ethic, poise and respect.
“I think I’m a lot like my dad — he’s a well-spoken person and works very hard,” the young quarterback said. “From my mom, just that supportive aspect. If you talk to anyone, they’ll tell you that I’m always being there for them and just supportive, kind of in the way that she’s supportive and kind to everybody.”
Give freely. Assert fearlessly. Even if you’re a freshman quarterback in a varsity huddle, as Dorman was three years ago, a 6-foot-3 kid barking orders at 17- and 18-year-old upperclassmen, trying to leave a game better than he started it.
“But I never backed down with that,” Dorman recalled. “I kind of persevered with that. I think it’s important for a quarterback to be able to be a leader in that environment.
“When I’d get on (the upperclassmen) for running the wrong route, or whatever, they kind of looked at me. They wouldn’t listen to me. Then, as the year progressed, we were doing well … I won a lot of them over before the end of the year.”
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They won more games, too, from five during his freshman season in 2019 — along with 13 touchdown passes and 13 picks — to seven as a junior in the fall of 2021 — during which he’d improved to 30 TDs and just eight interceptions — to an 8-4 mark as a senior.
“It’s been really fun to watch him develop,” former CSU football coach and local QB guru Steve Fairchild, who’s worked with Dorman for the last three years, told The Post recently. “He’s got NFL size, he’s got an NFL arm. He’s a very talented thrower.”
As someone who’s always sought to leave his game at the end of the year better than he started it, Dorman has leaned on the tutelage of another local passing coach, Tim Jenkins, for more than a decade, while adding Fairchild more recently to smooth over rough edges and prepare him for the pace of the college game.
This past February, Dorman, now 6-foot-5, a 4-star prospect and the top-rated prep quarterback in the state, committed to the University of Arizona — eschewing offers from CU, CSU, Oregon State, Wisconsin, Mississippi State, Middle Tennessee, Louisiana Tech, Kansas, Cal and Iowa State, his father’s alma mater, citing the “NFL experience” of Wildcats coach Jedd Fisch and his staff.
Dorman plans to enroll in Tucson early next month and has been working out nearly every day in order to hit the ground running. Or, in this case, throwing.
“He’s got a lot going for him,” Fairchild noted. “I mean, they don’t come around a lot with that many positive attributes.”
“It was just really cool”
They don’t. On several fronts. But out of all those attributes, the one Vrana keeps going back to — and probably always will — is dependability.
After all, leadership without action? It’s just words. And words that often fall on the deaf ears of peers whenever the going gets tough.
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The Vista Ridge coach tells another story, this one from the fall of 2021. In the second week of a young season, the Wolves fell, 41-20, at Pine Creek. As the fourth quarter melted away, so did Vista Ridge’s chances at a comeback.
Being on the wrong side of a four-minute drill late in a game is no fun. Neither is being on the sideline of that wrong side. Vrana remembers noticing it getting very, very quiet behind him, then turning quickly to see almost all of his players gravitating to the other end of the bench, farther away from their head coach.
“In high school, when stuff is going good, everybody wants to be around you, everybody wants to shake your hand,” Vrana laughed. “But when you’re not winning, you’re not successful, people move down the sideline and you’re kind of by yourself.”
The coach turned back to the lost cause playing out in front of him when he felt a comforting hand on his shoulder. It was Dorman, who’d never left his side. And never did. Win or lose.
“Sometimes it would just be me and him,” the coach continued. “He was always there. I don’t know what made me think of that (anecdote), it’s just not the kind of thing for a high school kid to do.
“It wasn’t just once. He’s done that a few times. Subconsciously, I think he wanted to say, ‘Hey, we’re both in this together.’ I always appreciated that. I’ve told that story a few times, but as a coach, I just felt like that’s one of those moments you don’t get all the time. It’s not planned. And it’s not something someone told you to do. It’s just who he is. And in that moment, it was just really cool.”