He’s gone from major college football to NASCAR, from the Southwest to the Southeast. But one thing has remained constant throughout Brett Nenaber’s life-changing journey — work ethic.
“That’s kind of how I’ve always gotten by,” Nenaber said. “I’ve never been the biggest, the strongest or the fastest. I’ve always outworked the next guy.”
Nenaber, Red Bull Racing Team’s 24-year-old catch can man on the No. 83, packed his tenacity and brought it with him when he relocated to North Carolina from his hometown of Tempe, Ariz. There, he walked on and played five seasons for the Arizona State Sun Devils — primarily on special teams, which requires a unique breed of player.
Special teamers must be fearless and relentless, two character traits Nenaber proudly possesses. In 2006, his junior year, Nenaber was named the team’s Hard Hat Player, an award that recognized his effort during the winter strength and conditioning program. As a senior, No. 39 played in 11 games and made eight tackles (four solo).
Nenaber recognized that playing professional football wasn’t in his future, and through some contacts within the Arizona State athletic department he was “recruited” by Red Bull Racing Team. The team was immediately sold on his work ethic, and he started in February 2008 on the developmental side before moving over the wall full time.
“He’s always looking for something more to do,” said Ben Cook, Red Bull Racing Team’s strength and conditioning coach. “He’s not trying to impress you. He does it because he loves it. That’s who he is.
“Once we have the attitude, the type of kid who embraces the team concept, it’s easy after that. You can teach them the skill.”
Nenaber compared his role as a NASCAR crewman to his days playing football.
“On special teams, you only get a few plays a game,” Nenaber said. “In between, there’s a lot down time. Your offense has the ball and you’re sitting there waiting for them to score so you can go back out on the field. You can sit there, be relaxed and stay focused, but when it’s your time to play you have to be able to flip that switch.
“It’s very similar for a pit stop. There’s a lot of down time sitting at the track, waiting and waiting for that caution to come out. When it does, you have to be ready to go.”