From first glance on a football field, senior Brodrick Hirai embodies the ideal physical stature of an elite defensive lineman. Standing at 6’1 and weighing in at 255 pounds, Hirai leads the Whitworth defensive line against some of the most explosive offenses in NCAA Division III football. However, what most people don’t see on Saturdays are the long hours and stress he has gone through just to be able to be on the field this season.
Hirai first came to Whitworth as freshman in the Fall of 2010 during the John Tully football era.
“I liked the school when I first visited,” Hirai said. “I liked the program, the feel of the campus, and I knew a lot of people who had come here already. When I sat down with my parents, we all agreed that a school like Whitworth would be perfect for me, and we were right.”
From his first season at Whitworth, Hirai split time on the defensive line, lettering his freshmen year. Hirai earned his starting roster spot his sophomore year. At the culmination of the season, he was named Northwest Conference honorable mention.
“Brodrick is an extremely dependable player. We knew exactly what he was going to give the team ever since his freshman year,” recruiting coordinator Jason Tobeck said. “Whether it was in practice, in the weight room, or on the football field, we knew that he was going to give us his all.”
With such a successful underclassman performance, Hirai did not stop there. After his junior season, Hirai was named Northwest Conference honorable mention for defensive line along with the CoSIDA academic All-District honoree award. Following his junior season, Hirai was named Northwest Conference honorable mention as well as one of four captains for the 2013 season.
With the captain position and starting spot to his name, Hirai’s senior season came to an early end after tearing his lateral meniscus, ACL and MCL in his left knee during Whitworth’s first game against St. Scholastica in the 2013 season.
“Late in the third quarter, my left knee planted and gave out funny. I remember it had been bugging me before in preseason training camp leading up to the game,” Hirai said.
After the injury, Hirai underwent surgery for meniscus, ACL and MCL repair. Hirai began light rehabilitation just two weeks after the surgery at the Whitworth athletic training center. Through a nine-month recovery process, Hirai was able to receive full athletic clearance on his knee.
“I learned from my injury to never take things for granted. A task as simple as carrying my food in SAGA was difficult for me without my left leg,” Hirai said.
In his senior season, Hirai faced a decision regarding his academic eligibility. After getting back to full health, according to the NCAA, Hirai still had a year left of athletic eligibility.
“I wanted to end [my football career] on my own terms,” Hirai said. “I wanted to play that final season. I wanted to be with the guys. Watching the entire year last year, I needed to play again.”
Hirai made the decision to accept his eligibility and enroll for one more semester at Whitworth.
His triumphs on the field were complementary to his excellence in the classroom. Hirai’s academic pursuits were dedicated to biology and the pre-medicine track. With the dream of one day becoming a family doctor, Hirai excelled in his classes throughout his college career earning a 3.89 GPA through rigorous science courses.
“He is very caring guy who is always learning and willing to learn. He sits in on classes just because he wants to help those around him achieve,” senior defensive lineman Kyle Warr said.
Hirai’s willingness to help others is noticed by many around him, including his head football coach.
“Brodrick greatly values his teammates. It’s not all about him, it’s about the cause,” Head Coach Rod Sandberg said. “He is willing to have relationships with the players on the team and that is why they respect him and follow him.”
After the season comes to a close, Hirai plans on continuing the process of applying to medical schools around the country. As of now Hirai’s top choice is the University of Washington Medical School in Seattle.