Chris Brewer was first up the stepladder to hoist Fairview's first region title trophy, and he was the statistical leader for the most prolific rushing offense in state history.
Brewer's hard-hitting, bulling-between-the-tackles game and similarly intense leadership style were the best-known, most publicly visible parts of Brewer's life, but they didn't tell his whole story, said one of his classmates.
Brewer, 26, was found dead Sunday, just nine years after leading Fairview to its first state championship game and being named All-Area Small-School Player of the Year.
Offensive linemen are responsible for taking care of skill position players on the field. Nearly a decade after Cody Sammons stopped pushing would-be tacklers out of Brewer's way, he's still touting his former teammate.
"Chris Brewer was more than just a stud on the football field," said Sammons, the center on the Fairview line that paved the way for Brewer to rush for 1,667 of the Eagles' state-record 6,128 ground yards as a senior in 2012. "He was a friend who always had your back. He was one of the smartest people I know. He played the saxophone in his down time. He won essay-writing competitions. And he was a great and fun person to be around."
Brewer's prototypically Westwood pluck personified a program on the rise. The long-downtrodden Eagles, a decade and a half removed from having to drop football due to low numbers, went 45-8 on the field during Brewer's four years wearing black and red. Those victories included their first-ever wins in the region championship and state-semifinal rounds in his senior season in 2012.
Fairview took center stage among northeastern Kentucky Class A schools by finding success against Raceland, which had long dominated the series between neighboring small-school archrivals.
Brewer and his teammates in 2010, '11 and '12 reeled off three consecutive victories against the Rams. Only two other Fairview classes have ever done that (2002-04, 1971-73).
Brewer rushed for 125 yards and a score as a sophomore in the Eagles' 49-22 win over Raceland in 2010, the first of that string. And he made an impression on his rival's coach.
"First off, our prayers go out to the Brewer family, Westwood community and Fairview football program," T.J. Maynard, the Rams' coach during that era, said. "Chris was a very competitive and physical football player that played with a lot of passion on the field. He was a very physical runner that enjoyed the contact. A great player gone way too soon."
Brewer rushed for more than 4,200 yards and 47 touchdowns in his career as part of a ground-gobbling offense The Daily Independent once christened the "Fairview Freight Train."
Such backs as Devon Turner, Elijah King, Chris Littlejohn and Gary Felder joined Brewer in the backfield and wreaked havoc on opposing defenses.
"Chris was a great player and even better person during our time together," then-Fairview coach Nathan McPeek said Sunday. "He always was kind, respectful, coachable and worked so hard to be the best player he could be. He was part of some of the best Fairview teams in the school's history and I will forever remember those great memories with Chris and his teammates."
Turner and King joined Brewer in surpassing the 1,000-yard mark in 2012, when the Eagles rode a smashmouth style and a wave of community support to the Class A state final. There Mayfield beat Fairview 55-8, but Brewer turned in a stellar performance in his last game, rushing for 148 yards on 16 carries.
A week earlier, in perhaps the most memorable football game ever contested in Westwood, Brewer ran for 111 yards as the Eagles eviscerated defending state champion Hazard, 40-6, to earn their first trip to the carpet.
Those memories melded in Sammons's mind Sunday with what the bruising back and linebacker did off the field.
"He was more than an athlete, but man, was he good at football," said Sammons, now Fairview's first-year baseball coach. "He was always a leader and a captain. He trained harder than anyone else and he played with his whole heart every game. He was a great person and a great friend."
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