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Tinlin blossoms in San Diego

Most young adults don’t begin to mature until they go away for their first year of college.

Brandon Tinlin got a head start on adulthood last January when he left his family behind in a transfer from South Tahoe to Point Loma High in San Diego. Now a high school senior, the 18-year-old Tinlin realizes that his mistakes deprived him of irreplaceable time with his two brothers and parents. At the same time, the time apart strengthened those relationships.

What the transfer has taken away from Tinlin’s personal life, it has generously given back to his football career.



From a troubled junior year at South Tahoe High in 2001, Tinlin has developed into a highly dependable and coveted tight end at Point Loma.

With the Feb. 5 national signing day rapidly approaching, Tinlin has the luxury of choosing between six prominent programs to further his education and football career.




“He’s being recruited very heavily. His stock has gone way up,” said Mike Hastings, Tinlin’s football coach at Point Loma. “He had a great, great season and now the fruit of his labor will be that he will get a college scholarship. It’s just a matter of where.”

The latest pursuits of Tinlin have reached overzealous proportions, with coaches and recruiters turning out to watch his basketball games. In the running are Utah, Iowa State, UNLV, Nevada, Nebraska and USC.

“I don’t want to get a big head. I did what I came down here to do: I came down here to play Division I football,” Tinlin said.

A year ago, Tinlin’s dream of playing Division I football looked as promising as the Cincinnati Bengals’ hopes of reaching the Super Bowl. While he was doing what he could with limited talent around him as the Vikings’ quarterback, his off-the-field problems were escalating and straining his relationships with his parents, Bill and Karen.

“I made a bad decision and tried to correct it. I basically quit the team and they wouldn’t let me back,” Tinlin said. “I don’t hold any grudges against those coaches, and I’ve talked with them since I’ve been down here.

“It was then that I thought it would be better if I came down here a fresh start.”

Hastings gave Tinlin a clean slate at Point Loma, and the 6-foot-5, 220-pounder has yet to disappoint him.

“He needed a change of scenery, no doubt,” Hastings said. “Whatever he went through up there, he’s learned his lesson. I haven’t seen any side of him that hasn’t been positive.”

For the past year, Tinlin has lived with his aunt and uncle, Andrea and Howard Justus. Instead of fighting over the remote control with brothers Daniel and Garrett, Tinlin has come to terms with his gentler side, now that he shares a house with three girls: Brooke, 7; Courtney, 5; and Lauren, 3.

“Of course I miss my family and the home feeling. This is like my second home,” Tinlin said. “My aunt and uncle have been really great and accepted me really well.”

At the same time, Tinlin realizes that he was a little closer to his brothers than he originally thought.

“I didn’t think I’d miss Garrett and Daniel this much, and that’s good that I miss them. That must mean that I had a better bond with them than I thought,” Tinlin said.

The clashes with his dad have ceased as well.

“I’ve always loved him and in a way we have a better relationship today,” Tinlin said. “It kind of stinks that I had to move away to find that out.”

Bill and Karen attended as many of their son’s games as they could this season. Their joy came not only from watching their son dominate between the goalposts but how he was conducting himself off the field.

“I was impressed with his leadership and intensity. Before, he never showed it off the field,” Bill said. “I’m extremely proud of him. His hard work, his turnaround are going to take him as far he can take it.”

Returning to his natural position — tight end — Tinlin caught 19 passes for 350 yards on a run-oriented team that advanced to the second round of the playoffs. Tinlin carried out his blocks so well that the team cameraman routinely couldn’t film the end of them.

“He drove kids right off the screen when we watched him on the video tape,” Hastings said.

Realizing he possessed a rare player for only one season, Hastings didn’t waste Tinlin’s talent by allowing him to rest on the sideline. Tinlin was also used as a defensive end, punter and kickoff specialist.

The 12 quarterback sacks and 56 tackles he generated in his first full season with a defensive unit made a lasting impression with coaches in San Diego County. Tinlin was Eastern League Defensive Player of the Year, all Eastern League first team and Point Loma MVP.

His excellence extended to the classroom as well, where his 3.2 grade-point average earned Tinlin a spot the San Diego Union’s All-Academic Team.

Even though he has yet to play a down of major college football, Tinlin has a goal to surpass Bill’s football progression. Bill played running back for Central Connecticut State in the early 1970s. Ultimately, he was invited to the New England Patriots’ 1972 training camp.

“I was there long enough for a cup of coffee,” Bill said.

Hanging around long enough to sing his college fight song at a team meal won’t cut it for Tinlin.

“Everybody has a dream of playing in the NFL. That would be a great accomplishment for me,” Tinlin said. “My dad went as far as his abilities could take him and hopefully that’s what I will do, but I’d like to get there for a little bit longer.”

As busy as Tinlin has been keeping up with his studies and competing in three sports — he also plays basketball and baseball for Point Loma — he hasn’t had time to enjoy some of the local activities.

“I’d like to surf more. I’ve been surfing once, and I actually got one wave and got up,” Tinlin said.

A year ago, Tinlin’s goal of playing Division I football seemed as realistic as getting a date with Anna Kournikova. Now, Tinlin is one of the hottest tight end prospects in the country. Tinlin has his family and relatives to thank, but he can be proud that he was the one who really made it happen.


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