Moving around to different conferences and different stadiums under different coaches does not bother University of Houston defensive lineman Eric Braswell.
Being in a military family taught him how to deal with constant change. But one thing that remains is his hunger to help the Houston Cougars get out of the shadows of the Bowl Championship Series conference schools in the state and re-establish itself as a Lone Star State power.
“We’re always going to be an underdog,” Braswell said. “You don’t look on SportsCenter and hear them talking about Houston. You always hear them talking about the University of Texas, Texas Tech, Baylor. But I think we have great potential to make an impact and make people start paying attention to us.”
Braswell is one of the key members of the Cougar defense and part of a program in the middle of an exciting transition during his time on campus.
For Braswell, instability was a norm growing up.
The former Shoemaker Grey Wolf came from an Army family and lived in California, Germany, Texas and Georgia while growing up. His parents currently live in Hawaii.
Houston is in its first season of American Athletic Conference play after a 17-year run in Conference USA. The Cougars will open a new 40,000-seat stadium next season after playing at Robertson Stadium from 1942 to 2012. Construction has forced Houston to play its 2013 home games at Reliant and BBVA Compass Stadiums.
“We try not to focus on where we’re playing, we focus on who we’re playing,” Braswell said. “At the end of the day, it’s a home game. We’re going to have our fans there, it’s still in Houston, and it’s still right around the corner.”
In eight games this season, Braswell has accumulated 14 tackles. He has a career tackle total of 79, including five for loss in 34 career games.
Prior to making his way to Houston, Braswell was a part of Shoemaker’s first-ever playoff team in 2008. The recruiting site Rivals.com listed Braswell as a three-star recruit and he was invited to compete in the FCA Victory Bowl and the Texas Best-Oklahoma Best games.
“He had all the tools, it was just a matter of him putting it together,” former Shoemaker head coach Ken Gray said. “The University of Houston got a steal. I’m pretty sure they could tell you that.”
Houston recruited Braswell when current Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin was the Cougars head coach. Braswell chose Houston over Buffalo, Louisiana-Monroe, Tulsa and New Mexico.
“It was more of a family environment and they stuck together,” Braswell said about his recruiting trip to Houston. “It just felt more genuine coming from Houston and it’s closer to home.”
After redshirting in 2010, Braswell made immediate contributions to the Cougars defense, starting 11 games and playing in all 14. In his debut season, he earned a spot on the Conference USA All-Freshmen team at defensive end.
But his sophomore season, 2012, held struggles for Braswell and the rest of the program.
After a 2011 season in which the Cougars went 13-1, finished the season ranked 18th and beat Penn State in the TicketCity Bowl, Houston struggled to a 5-7 season in 2012.
Braswell was determined to help get Houston back on top of the AAC standings.
“We definitely took it personally,” Braswell said. “Last year we went on a slump and a lot of people blamed it on the fact that we lost Case Keenum, Patrick Edwards and a bunch of big name people. I don’t think it was about that. We weren’t as focused as we should have been, we didn’t have as much teamwork as we do now.”
Houston’s only conference loss came on Saturday to AAC leader Central Florida.
Houston is in a three-way tie with Louisville and Cincinnati for second place. The Cougars visit Louisville on Saturday then close out the season with home games against Cincinnati and Southern Methodist.
The Cougars are bowl eligible and would improve their bowl stock with two wins.