Feature - Setting The Record Straight
SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT
By Donald Turnbaugh
On Sunday, October 9, in the 71st minute, Belmont was trailing rival Lipscomb 1-0 on the road and looking to avoid its first conference loss. T.J. Brown took the ball down and crossed it in front of the keeper right to Brandon Tarr. Like he had done 22 times before in his career, Tarr moved into position and headed the ball into the upper right corner of the net to tie the game. What separated this goal from the ones before is that it made him the all-time leader in career goals and points at Belmont.
What is remembered by the junior himself is not the personal achievement of going down in the record books, but the fact that Lipscomb scored with less than ten minutes remaining to win the game.
That is the kind of person Tarr is though, someone who is more concerned about his team's on-field success than what his stat sheet says at the end of the day.
"To be honest, that game was much more bitter than sweet," Tarr responded when asked how bittersweet the Lipscomb game was. "When I scored that goal our team rallied and we all thought we could pull the victory out. While it was nice getting the record on that goal, I was happier about tying the game up. Everyone, me included, was extremely upset about the loss to a rival. That's what it meant to me at the time."
There may not have been a storybook ending to that game, but the contributions Tarr has given to the Bruins cannot go unnoticed because there have been plenty of games during his time that have had the positive ending. He had the game-winning goal against North Florida during his freshman year while following it up during his sophomore campaign with game-winners against Gardner-Webb and Jacksonville. This season alone, he recorded four game-winning goals. Tarr has put the squad ahead and helped his teammates celebrate victories.
While it is impossible to boldly predict a player will finish his college career with so many personal accolades, it would be hard not to think about it when Tarr came to Belmont. He grew up in Knoxville, Tenn., and racked up numerous awards and honors during his high school years: NSCAA Adidas High School All-South Region, TWSA Al-State Team Division I, and participant in the United State U-17 National Team residency program, as well as the U-15 U.S. National Team. The Rise Magazine's 25th rated recruit decided to play collegiately at South Carolina but after redshirting his first year he became a Bruin.
The success started quickly and in his first five games he put the ball in the net four times, including two goals to open up the game against Alabama A&M. His two scores against North Florida powered the team to a 4-1 victory, the largest of the season for the Bruins. The Atlantic Sun recognized him as the Freshman of the Year and placed him on the All-Atlantic Sun Second Team. He finished the year leading the team with eight goals, but he does not even remember his first goal or how he learned about being named Freshman of the Year. He remembers the fact the team only won three games and needed to improve.
"I was not expecting to win any awards my first year because I really was not aware of my numbers or how they stacked up against other players in the league," said Tarr. "I think I was on the bus after a game and a teammate saw online I had won and just let me know. Sure, I was excited and proud to get it, but I was not really sure what it meant or how to deal with it around my teammates."
After having success for a first-year player, Tarr did not have a sophomore slump, but followed up that season with another consistent year, leading the team with seven goals and 20 total points to help Belmont get three more wins than the year before. He also was named Second Team All-Atlantic Sun. This season, he was named First Team All-Conference after recording a team-high 10 goals and 21 points while the team got to seven wins.
Consistency and improvement have been the name of the game for Tarr, who finally reached the double-digit goal mark, which he had set for himself before the year began. He knew that he needed to step up and be a leader this year and score more often to help the team get into a position to win more matches. The 10 goals were tied for the most in the conference and it was the second best single-season performance in Belmont history.
When questioned about how he is able to score so often and always be around the ball, Tarr replied, "I've just always had a knack for scoring goals. It's not something you can necessarily coach up, but it is something that some players just do. I attribute it to instinct, mindset and good teammates. I'm always around the goal and I'll do whatever it takes to get into position to score. I couldn't do these things though without having these players around me who set me up for success. Nico Olsak is tied for the all-time assists record at Belmont and he has made me look good these past two years…but he is successful because other players set him up, just like he sets me up. I've had great people around me."
Indeed, Tarr has had a tremendous amount of help, but whether he wants to admit it or not, his ability to create plays and his knowledge of his teammates' tendencies is what sets him apart.
The stats, accolades, and records are something he is proud of but not something that defines him. When he wraps up his career as a Bruin next year he will not be focused on how many goals he finishes with, but more concerned about making the conference tournament and making a long run in the postseason. He wants the team to come together and for the leaders, seniors, and other contributors to be rewarded with a postseason as something they can remember forever.
"Having this record means a lot to me but most importantly, it will always remind me of the great time I've had here," Tarr said in regards to his legacy. "It's neat to be atop the leader board because individually, that is what we all strive for everyday: doing our best, being winners and improving the team. I'm very fortunate to be in this situation and I'll always remember those who have helped me get here. I've reached a milestone but our number one goal as a team is to make the tournament. It would mean a lot."
So next year Tarr will add on to his 25 goals and put himself that much farther ahead in the Belmont annals. But none of that really matters in his eyes, as long as the team can play through early November.