The Boston College community is still reeling from the news that former defensive tackle Ron Brace unexpectedly passed away at the early age of 29. While it is easy to wonder about what could have been, it is more fitting to look at what Ron Brace was, and what he contributed to the Boston College Football program.
Brace came to Boston College in 2004, as a 3* offensive guard from Burncoat in Worcester, Massachusetts. Like many BC legends, Brace was not a highly recruited player, only receiving offers from Hofstra, UMass (FCS at the time), UConn and Northeastern. He came to BC overweight (366 pounds), but over his time at BC he actually lost about 40 pounds, leaving BC at a svelt 325 pounds.
Brace's career started like many at BC, when he was redshirted in 2004, before jumping onto the two deep in 2005 as the backup left tackle, but switched over to defensive tackle (behind now Special Teams coach Al Washington) where he made 11 tackles making his first start against Wake Forest.
In 2006 Brace started to see regular time as a starter at defensive tackle, racking up 20 tackles, and helping BC put together the #12 rushing defense in the country. He was positioned next to nose tackle BJ Raji, and the two would become one of the best pairings in the country in stuffing the run. However in 2007, Raji was found academically ineligible, and it was up to Brace to continue to be that physical run stuffing presence which he more than did, as Boston College had the best rushing defense in the entire country and Brace was an named an honorable All ACC player.
Brace on 2007: "There's certain times I did wish he (Raji) was there 'cause he could help you out, there were times I was double-teamed; there were times I got cut blocks I've never seen before. But I knew if they're doing this much work to stop me it must mean I'm getting better."
In 2008, Ron Brace hit his stride, as head coach Jeff Jagodzinski said after summer ball "I think that he got better as a football player. I think you get better with every practice, and Ron did have to take on a little bit bigger role last year because of the absence of BJ (Raji) and I think that made him better. I think he's also shown a lot of leadership skills lately. I was looking for that defensive leader and our defense has been playing exciting, high energy football. I'm really excited about that."
He frequently benefitted as opposing offenses focused on BJ Raji, which allowed him to make big plays all year. The defense's worst performance of the year was allowing 162 yards to Georgia Tech, but against Maryland, BC allowed a whopping -6 yards on the ground. Yes, -6 yards. And this wasn't a fluke. Brace and Raji, a combined 650 pounds, contributed to 8 games out of 13 where opposing rushing attacks were held under 100 yards. In his final season at the Heights, Brace finished the year with 10 tackles for loss, and 2.5 sacks on his way to second team all ACC
While researching Brace and trying to find out what kind of teammate Brace was, there was a great little story on Mass Live:
"When I got back to school I asked guys if they wanted doughnuts, and they said 'Yeah, but we don't feel like going to Dunkin' Donuts,' " Brace recalled during the Eagles media day Friday. "So I whipped it up for them all. It was a big hit because I didn't even get one."
While things never quite worked out for Brace in the NFL, plans looked to be in place for a post playing career. According to Al Washington's Twitter, the two ex-players had talked about Brace joining the BC staff in a coaching role. It would have been something to see what he could have taught the future defensive linemen in Chestnut Hill
Ron, a big man with a big heart, left his legacy at Boston College. Along with BJ Raji, he contributed to one of the best defensive tackle pairings and best defenses in school history. While his name might have been overshadowed by Raji, and linebacker Mark Herzlich, his contributions were huge.
He will be sorely missed and will be remembered by Boston College fans everywhere. Thanks for all of the memories Ron. You will always be an Eagle. #soar.