By Jonathan Okanes
Cal Bear Blog
Some people wake up in the morning and decide they are going to work out, go shopping or maybe socialize with friends.
One Tuesday morning last spring, Cal offensive lineman Mark Brazinski woke up and decided he wanted to be a genius.
Brazinski, the Bears’ unique and academically accomplished fifth-year senior, got the idea to put his intelligence to the test – literally. He decided to try to become a member of Mensa, the international organization open to those who score at the 98th percentile or higher on a standardized IQ test.
Brazinski, who earned degrees in business administration and media studies in three years and now is in graduate school, turned his early-morning idea into reality this summer when he reached the 99th percentile on an IQ test.
“I woke up one morning and was like, ‘I should try for Mensa just because’,” Brazinski said. “It wasn’t a thing I wanted to do since childhood. I just thought I should just do this. I was admitted and I was very grateful.”
Brazinski didn’t really need a standardized test to let him know that he is rather bright. In addition to his aggressive academic pursuits, he also is a semifinalist for the 2013 Campbell Trophy, given to the top scholar-athlete in the country. Brazinski also became the youngest person ever at age 20 to be admitted to the Cal’s Master of Information Management and Systems program.
“All of the professors make references to Star Trek from the 90s. I was 2 when that came out,” Brazinski said. “I don’t know what they are talking about. And there are people in the back of the room who are laughing hysterically.”
None of Brazinski’s intellectual accomplishments should come as a surprise. After all, he had all of this planned out while he was still attending Immaculata High School in Somerville, New Jersey. Brazinski wanted to still be on scholarship while attending graduate school at Cal, so he figured he had to get both of his bachelor’s degrees in three years to allow time for the master’s program while he was still in Berkeley.
Brazinski arrived on campus in 2009 equipped with a spreadsheet that mapped out every class he would take during each semester for the three years it would take him to earn his degrees. Former Cal kicker David Seawright, who ended up becoming close friends with Brazinski, learned about the spreadsheet first-hand during the summer before Brazinski’s freshman year at Cal.
“We were doing summer conditioning and running next to one another, and even though we were running sprints, he insisted on talking to me the entire time,” said Seawright, who is now a political media consultant in Washington, D.C. “He was asking me about what I was studying, what I was doing in school. Then he proceeded to tell me his entire plan. We went into the locker room after that conditioning session and he pulled out his hand-written spreadshseet. He had already scheduled all of the classes he was going to take every semester and every summer school in order to accomplish getting two degrees in three years.”
To simply say Brazinski is intelligent doesn’t fully grasp his unique personality. Brazinski uses his intellect to try different things and employ different approaches to various aspects of life. For instance, Brazinski says when in a group setting in class, he will intentionally make thoroughly outlandish suggestions just so others don’t think their ideas are so far-fetched. Brazinski also doesn’t tell his instructors he plays on the football team during the early portion of each semester because he believes it comes with a stereotype.
“Football players have a stigma attached to them,” Brazinski said. “As much as you don’t to admit that, it’s true. I would not wear anything with football on it for about the first five weeks of the semester, and then I’d show up to their office hours and ambush them with it. Every professor that I have done that for has found a way to respect me as a student.”
Brazinski also isn’t afraid to initiate a conversation with the strangest of strangers. He said one of the traits he especially loves about Cal is the potential to strike up a debate with anyone at anytime.
“Mark will throw out the most ridiculous idea and start debating it, whether he believes it or not,” said former Cal offensive lineman Mitchell Schwartz, who now is a starting tackle with the Cleveland Browns and a good friend of Brazinski’s. “He as a lot of viewpoints on a lot of things, and loves to learn about any topic.”
Brazinski did a reading at Seawright’s wedding last year, and then changed into a tuxedo T-shirt for the reception. He also took a break from the dance floor to ice his knee right in the middle of the reception as he was recovering from an injury.
“That was pretty Mark-esque,” Seawright said. “This is saying something considering it’s Mark, but his personality is even bigger than his body. That’s not exactly an easy thing to accomplish. It’s part of what makes Mark so unique as an individual. He has so many friends because of his ability to interact with just about anybody.”
Brazinski will finish up his master’s program in the spring and then hopes to get a look from the NFL. No matter where he winds up after he is done in Berkeley, there is no question he will have left a unique impact on Cal.
“If you can’t fit in at Berkeley, you can’t fit in anywhere,” Brazinski said. “If you like archery, if you like dressing up as a warlock and going to fight in the middle of a field, if you want to learn how to make pizza, if you want to protest Syria – if you want anything, it’s all here. I’m just glad to be a part of it. I’m glad that I can go find things that I enjoy intellectually, physically, spiritually - it’s something that I will forever be grateful for.”