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Always on the run

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Brett Segala cheers on his team from the sidelines during a 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. (Cortland athletics photo by Darl Zehr Photography)
Brett Segala is always on the go, even when one of his teammates is returning a kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown.
Cortland athletics photo by Darl Zehr Photography
 

By Jason Bowen
D3sports.com

“I try to light a fire under people and try to get them excited for practice and games. There’s usually one constant (voice) going on at practice and it’s usually me. I want to be the guy that everybody looks at and sees that he’s the one leading this football team.”

— Brett Segala, Cortland starting quarterback

Cortland quarterback Brett Segala is the type of guy that never wants to have a 9-to-5 desk job.

“I’m a guy that wants to go-go-go,” Segala said. “Get on my feet and do things. I couldn’t sit behind a desk for eight hours a day.”

And after the first two games of the season, the junior is one of the reasons the Red Dragons are on the go after victories over Fitchburg State and Framingham State.

Cortland has rolled up more than 50 points in consecutive games to open the season for the first time since 1991. In the wins, Segala has passed for 461 yards and seven touchdowns, while adding two more on the ground.

“He’s our version of Baker Mayfield,” according to Red Dragon offensive coordinator Greg Roskos. “He has a lot of energy and is always competing. He’s probably the hardest on himself of anybody, including the head coach or myself.”

Like Mayfield, Segala has an excitable, outgoing and enthusiastic personality. He’s is a self-described open book.

“I’m a really (a put-it-)out-there type of guy,” Segala said. “You’re going to know how I am feeling. I want to be the guy that brightens up the room.

“I try to light a fire under people and try to get them excited for practice and games. There’s usually one constant (voice) going on at practice and it’s usually me. I want to be the guy that everybody looks at and sees that he’s the one leading this football team.”

Also like Mayfield, the junior started at another school, transferred and had to fight his way up the depth chart. Segala started at D-II Seton Hill in 2015, where he redshirted before became a Red Dragon. Being closer to home and family, and a chance get on the field sooner were key to his decision.

However, as the 2016 season started, Cortland was in pretty good shape at the quarterback position. Steve Ferreira had just led the team to an Empire 8 championship and into the second round of the NCAA playoffs. Segala started the season at fifth on the depth chart.

“My job at the time was to be the scout team quarterback for our defense and go hard every day and give them the looks that they needed for the next opponent,” Segala said. “I prided myself on that. I prepared myself like I was the starter. You never know when your name is going to be called.”

But Roskos and head coach Dan MacNeill liked what they saw.

“Every day he comes in with a competitive attitude,” Roskos said. “Even when he was fifth string, on scout team, he wanted to light up our starting defense. He wanted to make every completion, make every throw.”

Cortland started 2-0, but sputtered after Ferreira, who holds nearly every Red Dragon passing record, went down with an injury in the third game of the season. The Red Dragon lost five of the next six games.

Segala worked his way up the depth chart during that time and played well enough in a two-point loss to Brockport to earn the starting role in the final two games of the season. The first a win over Morrisville State and then another the Cortaca Jug victory over Ithaca.

“That was a life-changing moment for me going out in front of 10,000 people,” Segala said of the Cortaca game. “I was brand new to the rivalry. Having a chance to play and win that football game was a best day of my life type of moment.”

Brett Segala on the run, rolling out. (Cortland athletics photo by Darl Zehr Photography)
Brett Segala led Cortland with 1,118 yards passing as a freshman, then got just four pass attempts as a sophomore.
Cortland athletics photo by Darl Zehr Photography
 

Segala passed for more than 300 yards in each of his starts that year with 11 touchdowns and seven interceptions. That included a three-point loss to Kean the following week in an ECAC Bowl game.

But for a man on the go, the 2017 season would be a year to sit and wait. Ferreira returned as the starter and led the Dragons to a 7-4 year that included a victory in the inaugural New York State Bowl over Union. Segala threw just four passes all season.

“Steve comes back on his medical redshirt and he’s the guy. I understood that but again, my mindset never changed. I took last year as a learning year.

“Off the field he was a great guy to be around. We’re really close friends off the field. He taught me so many things on and off the field. I competed every day and tried to get better every single day. That set up coming into this season.”

MacNeill has seen growth since 2016 from his high-strung quarterback. His quarterback has thrown just one interception so far this season.

“From my perspective, there’s more maturity,” MacNeill said. “He’s making better decisions in the pocket. He plays with real emotion.

“Sometimes (in the past) that can get in the way of clear, critical thinking. He would think he could get a ball in a window and it would turn into a turnover. Those decisions he’s much better at.”

Roskos sees a better athlete, who is stronger and more mature. A player who can beat you with his arm, legs or mind and knows what all 22 players on the field are doing.

“Everybody on the team knows him,” Roskos added. “He went from being the trash-talking scout team quarterback to our starter. He’s gone from the defense not really liking him to ‘that’s our guy, that’s our leader.”

Segala also has the advantage of being a coach’s son. His father, James, was quarterback at Gallaudet in the late 80’s and is a member of the school’s hall of fame. He also has worked as a coach and referee in the Rochester area.

“Both of my parents are hearing impaired.” the junior quarterback said. “Living and going up in a deaf household is something that shaped me into the person that I am today.

“Some people might see that as a deficiency or hindrance. I see it as a blessing. Being fluent in sign language and being able to communicate with people in a different way showed me how it is in the deaf community and how awesome a different language is. Being a kid of deaf adults is something I hold near and dear to me. It’s really important to me.”

Segala, is named after Brett Favre, while younger brother Brees is named after the New Orleans future Hall of Famer. Brees has joined his older brother on the Cortland roster as a freshman quarterback.

“You can see them signing after games,” Roskos said. “He raised him as a coach’s son and that’s what makes him so coachable. He wants to compete and do everything right.”

Segala plans to be a physical education teacher after he graduates and probably a coach.

“I pride myself on, helping youth and being someone that can take my experiences and translate to younger kids and help them find what they love. I want to be a role model for kids.”

Expectations are always high a program with tradition of Cortland. The Red Dragons will try to “win the bye week” before opening up their Empire 8 schedule next Saturday against Alfred.

“Our dreams are always big and I like that,” MacNeill said his team’s expectations.

And his quarterback, he’s ready to go.

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