The Valero Alamo Bowl comes about two months too late for UCLA junior center Jake Brendel. There will be someone missing from the moment when the Bruins play Kansas State in the Jan. 2 game — his sister.
Lauren Brendel is a lieutenant in the Air Force who was stationed at Randolph Air Force Base near San Antonio. She shipped out to Afghanistan last month.
"It could have been like a homecoming for me," Brendel said. "It's not really a bad thing. She is serving our country and doing her thing over there. I respect what she's doing. The circumstances are what they are."
Brendel and his sister grew up in Texas. He played football at Plano East High before signing with UCLA.
Bill Brendel said in an email that his children "identified early in their lives what it was they wanted and both set about doing what they needed to do to achieve those lofty goals."
For Lauren Brendel that meant the ROTC program at the University of Wisconsin. The 25-year-old now handles administration duties from a squadron that is now stationed in Bagram Air Base in Eastern Afghanistan.
Jake Brendel took his talents to UCLA, where he was a second-team All-Pac-12 selection this season. He is the linchpin of the Bruins' offensive line, which struggled considerably when he sat out the season opener at Virginia because of a knee injury.
The Bruins missed his skill and brains. Brendel was also on UCLA's Athletic Director's honor roll in the fall of 2011, the winter of 2012, the fall of 2012, the spring of 2012 and the spring of 2013.
Brendel said his sister has been one of the guiding forces in his life.
"She was basically my third parent," said Brendel, who joked, "She messed up enough, so I looked like the golden child."
But, he said, "she always took the blame for stuff that was my fault and kind of sheltered me as a kid. It was always a good situation for me."
The two are alike in many ways, Brendel said.
"When we set our minds to something, we can't be told no," he said. "We keep putting forth all the effort we can to reach that goal."
Which has Jake Brendel in San Antonio next week and Lauren Brendel in Afghanistan.
"Ironically, what should have been a fortuitous bowl assignment for my daughter to attend, is all for naught," Bill Brendel said.
UCLA will practice Tuesday, then break for the holiday. The Bruins leave for San Antonio on Dec. 28.
"We had three physical practices in a row," Coach Jim Mora said. "Every day has gotten better. Every practice has been a little bit more intense, a little bit more towards what we want, more focused. As we zero in on the game, it will become even more so."
Mora said that most of the game preparation will be done before the team leaves for Texas.
"We wanted to get most of our heavy, physical, padded work done here," Mora said. "All the installation and game planning will be done. When we get to San Antonio, it will be the second time through."
Eric Kendricks teamed with Anthony Barr and Jordan Zumwalt to give UCLA a formidable linebacker group in 2012 and 2013. Barr and Zumwalt are now in the NFL, where Kendricks probably will be next season.
"It's a very different mentality for linebackers around here now," Kendricks said. "There is a swagger about us. We take pride in it as a unit."
Kendricks said he's leaving those responsibilities in good hands. Sophomore Myles Jack will need to take a greater leadership role next season.
"He has no choice at this point," Kendricks said. "I grew up in this system. I've seen so many things. I taught Myles a lot. We experienced things together. It's been fun and I know he is going to share those experiences with other guys. It's a cycle that I hope continues here forever."