"China? China was a crazy experience", says Sean Brackett, as his smile was slowly getting wider. When asked about the best word he knows in Chinese, that smile quickly turns into a laugh: "There aren't too many words I can say on the record. I know how to say 'let's go'. That's PG13 I guess."
It was 2016, when Brackett, after spending three years with arena football teams around the U.S., boarded a plane from Boston to China to play for the Qingdao Clipper of the China Arena Football League. That flight was also the first time he met Jawad Yatim, now the Massachusetts Pirates President, General Manager and Director of Player Personnel and back then, a quarterback for another team in the CAFL. "I asked him if he's going to China and he said 'yes, are you?” recalls Brackett.
For the talented 27-year-old quarterback, it was another step in a long journey and that step eventually led him to his current home; The Pirates offense, which under his command was the best in the league last season, leading the NAL in total yards per game, yards per play, passing yards per game and passing yards per attempt.
Brackett, whose hometown is Brooklyn, CT, attended Columbia University and was a four-year starter for the Ivy League school. As a sophomore (2010), he was voted for the All-Ivy First Team and after graduating played in Utah, Las Vegas, Jacksonville, China and Washington and also tried out for the Canadian Football League, before joining the Pirates. This year, for the first time since his college days, he is playing for the same team in back-to-back seasons. "Being in the same spot is great. The continuity, having the same coaching staff and offense, it's much easier. Going from team to team to team, you have to learn a new playbook every time and the different personalities of the guys. The atmosphere here is great. Jawad and his father Hassan really took me and my family in and we have to keep this atmosphere for future success".
On some level, he knew this was the right place for him before even taking the first snap. That is why, when signing his first contract with the Pirates, he promised the owners he would be the league's Most Valuable Player. Promised, and delivered. He swears he wasn't being cocky, just confident. "I know the work that I put in and I know the organization and the players that we have and that if I do my job, we will be successful. MVP is a team award. The offensive line has to do a great job blocking, receivers must be open and catch and I have got to put the ball in the right place."
Like it or not, success is certainly an expectation when you play for a Massachusetts professional football team. Brackett absolutely loves it and his smile comes back when he's been asked about it. "You have got to love the expectations here. It's the State of Champions! You've got the Patriots right down the street and they cast a very long shadow, but I'm a fan and have been enjoying their success. We are trying to mirror that, their way. They are doing everything the right way and we want to take that and bring it to our team and hopefully, have the same success and win a championship too."
Along the years, Brackett slowly got used to the arena game. He finds some similarities to outdoor football, like breaking down film and trying to get the defensive tendencies, but he also learned how to use the indoor game advantages to his favor, like the extensive passing game ("I basically throw the ball almost every single play") and the simpler defenses, a result of an offense-friendly rule book. He says he likes both games. Outdoors, he was able to put his running skills on display more often and do a lot of zone reading. Indoors? "Well, I definitely can't complain about a league where I can go out there and throw 70, 80 or 90 touchdowns a year. I just love the game. Football is football."
He does think that if he ever ends up going back to playing outdoor football at some point, it would be much easier than making the first transition, to the indoor game: "Everything happens so fast in arena football, because the field is much smaller. I don't have all day here to throw the ball. When you play outdoors, from the shotgun, you have three or four seconds to throw it. It seems like eternity in the indoor game."
Brackett knows that every experience he had throughout his career made him a better quarterback, improved his techniques, fundamentals and reads, but also made him a better teammate. The ability to both adapt to situations and grow as a player helped him in China, where league rules said that half of the players on the field had to be locals and they did not speak English; "It was all hand signals, but at the end of the day they are more similar to you than you'd ever imagine. I'm a big city guy, so I was completely blown away by their communities. It was amazing, one of the best experiences in my life."
As an Ivy League graduate, he obviously has big plans in the future, but right now enjoys playing, teaching in Cambridge and coaching Physical Education in Waltham's elementary schools: "The kids always come to me and say 'Mr. Brackett, you are famous, we saw you on TV.'"
It's not easy playing quarterback in the State of Champions, but Sean Brackett is acing it.
The Massachusetts Pirates are members of the National Arena League (NAL). The Pirates play all home games at the DCU Center located at 50 Foster St. Worcester, MA. 01608. For more information on the Massachusetts Pirates please call (508) 452-MASS (6277), email firstname.lastname@example.org orvisit www.masspiratesfootball.com. Single game tickets are available online at ticketmaster.com or theDCU Center Box Office. For group outings please call 508-452-MASS (6277). Follow the Pirates on Facebook at Facebook.com/MAPirates on Instagram @mass.pirates, as well as Twitter @mass_pirates.