After finishing his NFL career, Brandon Torrey returned home to Durham, N.C., with an eye toward letting his body recover from the toils of being an offensive lineman in professional football and giving thought to the next stage in his life. Still young – his final game was in 2009 with the Oakland Raiders – Torrey decided to take the entrepreneurial route and spent considerable time and effort planning to open a Popeye’s fast food restaurant.

But as the franchising process dragged on, Torrey couldn’t let go of a promise he made to his mother, Carla, to graduate from college. He left Howard University in 2006, just 18 credits short of graduation when he embarked on his pro football career.

In the spring of 2015, Brandon Torrey returned to Howard to complete his degree in sociology.  

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(Photo Credit: howard.edu)                 

While the coursework seemed much easier than it had a decade earlier, Torrey couldn’t help but feel self-conscious as he looked around the classroom. He was used to being the biggest person in the room–he played at 6 feet 5 and 295 pounds–but now he was also the oldest. That’s where Howard football coach Gary “Flea” Harrell came in.

“He brought me in and told me I could help out” with the team, Torrey said. “It was a little awkward being the older guy in class with 21-year-olds, but I was able to go out to the football field and escape a little bit.”

Torrey graduated in the fall semester of 2015 and found himself looking for a new profession. When Coach Harrell had a full-time opening on his staff, he hired Torrey to become the Bison’s offensive line coach. The news brought a smile to the face of his father Craig Torrey—a retired high school football coach. 

“He was happy. He was proud,” Brandon Torrey said. “I’ve only seen him that happy two other times: When I first got into the NFL and when we won the Super Bowl.”

This season, Brandon Torrey joins running backs coach Cato June as the two first-year college coaches with Super Bowl rings on Harrell’s staff. Torrey earned his ring in Super Bowl XLII with the New York Giants; June, who also starred at Washington’s Anacostia High and had been a local high school head coach, won his in Super Bowl XLI with the Indianapolis Colts. 

Although Torrey and June can share stories of their success in high school, college and the NFL, their focus is on molding young men entering adulthood.

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(Photo Credit: gigapan.com)

“I still feel like I can go out there and play, but I’m putting that behind me,” Torrey said. “It’s not just about what you teach them on the football field, it’s everything that goes into it after you get out of this little bubble of college. It doesn’t seem like a dream world now, but it doesn’t get any easier after college. I’m shaping minds and getting guys ready for great things.” 

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Howard opens its season with road games against Maryland and Rutgers, then plays rival Hampton in the AT&T Nation’s Football Classic®.

Tickets for the AT&T Nation’s Football Classic® begin at $25 and are available at ticketmaster.com. For addition information, please visitnationsfootballclassic.com.

The AT&T Nation's Football Classic® is a black college football game held annually at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C. Now in its sixth year, the 2016 game features Howard University against Hampton University and will be played on Saturday, September 17.