Four and half years ago, Gabriel Brandner joined the 2013 class of Heathwood Hall students as they departed the campus on South Beltline for the final time as members of the Highlander student body. Standing at 6′ 6″, Brandner towered over most of the student body, though it may have been his thoughtful personality and friendly demeanor that had him stand out the most. Affectionately known to most as “Gabe,” he left Heathwood as one of three Highlanders pursuing Division I athletics that year, and set off to embark on his journey to Durham, NC to join the Duke University Football program, under renowned coach David Cutcliffe.
What a journey that has proven to be!
Since 2013, Gabe has developed into one of the nation’s top offensive lineman, and has helped lead the Blue Devils to a 4-1 record to start 2017. As a three-year starter for the Blue Devils, Brandner has been a catalyst for the Blue Devil program’s transformation into a perennial contender in the ACC Coastal division, including back-to-back wins over archrival North Carolina. This season, he was also named a Preseason All-ACC selection by national publications Athlon Sports and Lindy’s Sports. But as productive as he’s proven to be on the field, his impact will be long remembered in Durham for his work in the classroom and community.
A spring 2017 graduate, Brandner finished his bachelor’s degree in Evolutionary Anthropology (3.637 GPA) and has been recognized academically with 1st Team CoSIDA Academic All-District Honors, and multiple Academic All-ACC honors. This fall as he competes on the gridiron, he is pursuing a master’s degree in Liberal Studies.
But, as all from the Heathwood community can attest, Gabe is never satisfied without leaving a place better than he found it. His work on and off-campus at Duke has turned him into a bit of a campus celebrity, highlighted by his performance with the National Inclusion Project’s Dancing with the Stars. Named as one of the “2017 ACC Top 6” for Service honor for excellence in community service, he has been extremely involved with the local community, serving with the Lideres Unidos Futbol Club, National Inclusion Project, Habitat for Humanity and Kid’s Club in Oxford Manor.
This summer, Gabe was named to the 2017 Wuerffel Trophy Watch List. The award, known as “College Football’s Premier Award for Community Service,” is presented annually by the All Sports Association in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, and is awarded to the FBS player that best combines exemplary community service with athletic and academic achievement.
Recently, he was named one of the 11 FBS players nationwide to the 2017 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team, honoring dedication to volunteerism and enriching the lives of others. That honor was shortly followed with being named a semifinalist for the 2017 William V. Campbell trophy, which recognizes an individual as the absolute best football scholar-athlete in the nation.
To quote Duke Coach David Cutcliffe, “Gabe Brandner is going to be a doctor. I couldn’t be more thrilled for him.”
230 miles south of Durham, NC there’s another community of people who couldn’t be more thrilled either.