Eastern Michigan offensive tackle Brian Dooley made national headlines recently when he gave up his scholarship to four-year walk-on Zack Conti. At a time when division rips through college football, the selfless actions of the Eagles’ standout are a reminder of the good that exists in the sport.
It comes as no surprise to those who know him, however.
This is exactly who Brian Dooley is.
Brian Dooley is the Selfless Leader of Eastern Michigan Football
“I just know this,” Eastern Michigan head coach Chris Creighton tells me emphatically. “Brian Dooley actually, really, cares.”
It’s mid-late July, and Dooley is in Detroit, Michigan, alongside his head coach, representing Eagles football at the MAC Media Day. The backdrop of the opulent Fox Theatre provides a vivid contrast between the setting for the official introduction to the 2023 college football season and the often bleak-weathered, midweek, mid-winter football that the conference prides itself on.
Yet, it’s a fitting stage on which Dooley represents Eastern Michigan. The sixth-year offensive tackle has been a shining light, a beacon of hope for the program and in the Ypsilanti community. He’s the Eagles’ nomination for the 32nd AllState AFCA Good Works team and lands on the Wuerffel Trophy Watchlist ahead of the 2023 campaign.
Both of those awards recognize something that goes beyond football success. The big man who anchors the Eastern Michigan offensive line has established himself as an even bigger presence in the local community. Since arriving at the program, he’s logged over 100 hours of community service across a range of initiatives.
Dooley isn’t there to simply make up the numbers. He isn’t there out of a sense of having to. As his Eastern Michigan head coach explains, giving back to the community is a part of his makeup.
“His hand goes up when we’re asking for volunteers to do community service,” Creighton continues. “He’s going to be in law enforcement to serve his community. It’s a natural fit for him to be nominated for the Good Works team.”
A Charitable Personality Formed in a Christian High School
“When I went to high school, we were men for others first,” Dooley explains his background in community giving as he joins College Football Network at the end of a hectic day in Detroit. “That’s just how it was. Whatever I can do to give back to the community, every day I’ll do it because not everyone is as fortunate as I am.”
“That’s how I want to live my life, is to give a lot to people who don’t have it.”
Dooley is being recognized for his substantial community efforts in the Ypsilanti community as an Eastern Michigan football player, but the origins of his charitable personality can be traced to a place less than fifty miles down the US-23N.
A standout on the football field who earned all-conference and all-district accolades in 2017, it was the teachings away from sport at St. John’s Jesuit High School that helped shape and mold a man for whom community giving and visible leadership are the cornerstones of his personality.
“Leaders” is written into the mission statement of the school, and engrained in their former student.
“It’s very important to me,” Dooley says of his role at Eastern Michigan. “A lot of my guys look up to me and I need to set a great example on and off the field. To me, if I wasn’t doing that, then I’ve failed because I want to be a leader and for them to be able to come to me.”
Dooley Leaves an Impact on the Ypsilanti Community
Dooley has been an on-field leader since gaining his first start on the offensive line for Eastern Michigan in 2019. After spending four games playing tight end in his true freshman year before redshirting, he has been the cornerstone of the offensive line. The sixth-year senior has 45 appearances, helping establish a dominant ground game and an oft-potent air attack.
Yet, those numbers pale into insignificance when it comes to understanding who Dooley is as a man. The over 100 hours of community service are a better yardstick for that impact. If you could count the number of smiles on the faces of the kids whose lives have been impacted by his selfless commitment to service, that would be an even better measure.
It’s those smiles that fuel him. While he’s honored by recognition like the AllState AFCA Good Works team nomination and Wuerffel Trophy Watchlist appearance, the true reward comes from seeing how his actions impact lives at events like Eastern Michigan’s “Victory Day.”
“It hurts that it’s only one day of the year, for only a few hours,” Dooley begins to summarize his feelings on one of the most important days on his calendar. “Those few hours, it changes those kids lives. The smiles that you see throughout the day, it changes you. A smile can go a long way. A fist bump, the hugs you get, it warms your heart.”
Now in its eighth year, “Victory Day” is a community day designed to bring fun and football into the lives of cognitive and physically impaired community members—particularly children.
A lot of Dooley’s work in the community involves the next generation. The Eastern Michigan offensive tackle has visited local schools in the Ypsilanti area, while he has been active in building and refurnishing parks and playgrounds.
In talking to him, it’s quickly apparent why there’s such a passion to help shape the youth in the community that he calls home.
“My thing is,” Dooley explains his motivation behind working with children, “if no-one is going to do it, who are they going to look to? Who’s going to read to them? Who’s going to give them a new playground? It changes these kids lives, me doing this.”
“Growing up, I never had schools do this,” Dooley continues. “I like it a lot because those kids will look up to you in the future. One of the kids was like “hey, I want to be a college football player!” and I told him that when he becomes a college football player, he can come to Eastern Michigan and read to the kids, and it keeps on passing on the tradition.”
There’s a tradition of giving at Eastern Michigan under head coach Creighton. Dooley talks of the inspiration provided by former Eagles linebacker Tariq Speights, himself a two-time nominee for the AllState AFCA Good Works team, and of the environment and culture within the program that enables his off-field endeavors.
Yet there’s more to Dooley’s escapades than inspiration and tradition. From helping kids in Ypsilanti to sharing the proceeds of an NIL deal with a bakery back home in Bowling Green with his teammates, he lives to a higher standard of treating other people how he wants to be treated himself, no matter what.
That’s exactly who Brian Dooley is.