By Theresa Smith
GCU News Bureau
It is no stretch for Brendan Dyer to play the part of a bewildered Kansas City pitcher being rocked by Seattle Mariners slugger Nelson Cruz. Yet Dyer is not a hard-throwing right-hander, nor an accomplished actor. Simultaneously, he’s pursuing his dream of becoming an actor while majoring in marketing in the Colangelo College of Business at Grand Canyon University.
Five weeks before graduation, Dyer celebrated a breakthrough, landing a star role in a clever Mariners baseball ad. (Click here to watch it – it’s the first one, titled “Work-related Injury.”)
The scene opens with the 6-foot-4, 235-pound “Royals player” sitting on an examining table, wearing a neck brace. When a doctor asks if the injury is “work-related,” a series of flashbacks reveal that the shell-shocked pitcher suffered whiplash while straining to see how far Cruz belted his pitches into the stratosphere. Dyer’s eye blinking is spot on, as is his fluid pitching delivery, a combination that earned him the gig over nearly 200 competitors.
Not surprisingly, Dyer had no difficulty channeling his character. Throughout auditions and callbacks, he recalled his first high school pitching experience.
“My very first pitch was about five feet behind the batter,” Dyer said. “And the second pitch, it wasn’t much better. I either beaned them or I threw it way off base. It was very rare for me to get a strike. So when I went up against Nelson Cruz, I was amazed at how well I was throwing strikes because that was not my typical throwing pattern back in the day.”
Dyer, who has not pitched since his days at Valley Christian High School in Chandler, was fearful of hitting Cruz in the head with a wayward pitch.
“Now, granted, it has been five or six years since I’ve pitched a ball like that,” Dyer said. “It was a little nerve-wracking. I didn’t want to bean him, because had I beaned him, I potentially could have lost my career and ruined his.”
In the lone filming session, Dyer threw 40 pitches, including warmups.
“So, I have two strikes on Nelson Cruz; that’s what’s important,” he said with glee. “I threw two strikes on Nelson Cruz before he could actually crush it. When he crushed it, it went sailing. Oh my gosh! And that was all we needed, just the one shot.”
Dyer, 21, will shoot another commercial, for the Los Angeles Angels, in April. With the help of his agent, Ruth Leigthton, he’s utilizing the marketing skills he learned at GCU.
“I came up with the idea to pursue marketing because it would help me as an actor to market myself,” he said. “But also, should I fail at becoming a recognized and established actor, I would have something to fall back on.”
Dyer’s breakthrough role – acting as an athlete – is ironic given the decision-making process that led him to GCU.
He considered playing college football at Whittier, in California, or Glendale Community College, until his high school advisor alerted him to the Colangelo Scholarship possibility at GCU.
He met the criterion: a combination of academic prowess, volunteer hours, including mission trips, and leadership experience. He continued his association with sports by attending GCU basketball and softball games and continuing to follow his favorite professional teams: the Diamondbacks, Cardinals, Suns and Coyotes. Spending time with Cruz ranks among his sports highlights.
“Oh my gosh, he was hilarious,” Dyer said. “I was messing around on the mound, throwing him some weird pitches, and he was laughing. He actually stopped me in the middle of one of my pitches to take a selfie with the umpire and the catcher. He was also a really humble guy and really nice. He sat and chatted with me for a few minutes and took a couple of photos. He was a very kind man, and it was an honor to meet such a great baseball player.”
The timing of Dyer’s first commercial breakthrough with the opportunity to pursue acting full time, beginning in May, is a tribute to his extra effort in the classroom. Among the first Colangelo Scholars, Dyer earned advanced placement and dual enrollment credit in high school, enabling him to graduate from GCU in April, after just three years.
It seems like just yesterday that Dr. Randy Gibb, the CCOB dean, came to Valley Christian to present Dyer with the Colangelo Scholarship.
“I am sad it is all over in three years,” he said. “I love the people I’ve worked with, the professors I’ve met, and the people at the Honors College. I’m really sad I have to leave Dr. Gibb because that guy is amazing.
“Dr. Gibb is one of the most helpful and willing deans I’ve met. The man is always wanting to help, always asking how I’m doing, if he can aid in any way. He knows about my pursuit of acting, so he has put me in front of CEOs and sent my name out.”
From interviewing Dyer as a high school senior scholarship applicant to observing his collaboration on TEDxGrandCanyonUniversity 2018, Gibb has witnessed impressive growth.
“I’ve seen a transformation from a confident high school senior to a more mature, maybe a little more grounded, college student who is ready to enter the workforce,” Gibb said. “He still has big dreams; he’s still very confident. He had this love and passion for theatre and film, and I think he has been very clever in the manner he has navigated and strategized his college career. He’s definitely going to make something of himself and make a positive impact on the world.”
Thanks to GCU’s Honors College, Dyer already has developed a world view. He traveled to England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland with 20 Honors College students plus faculty chaperones in the summer of 2016. Then, last summer, he toured Spain, France, Italy, Monaco, and Vatican City with 50 Honors College students and faculty chaperones.
The exposure to a myriad of other cultures was amazing for the GCU senior who has prepared himself for post-collegiate life by learning to take on any role.
Mentoring students is one of Gibb’s core principles.
“Our motto in the Colangelo College of Business, you look in the hallway, it says ‘Lopes First,’” Gibb said. “We get to work on this beautiful campus in Phoenix, Arizona, because of our students, so everything has to be about our students.
“We want to stay small as we grow. We want to be the most accessible, approachable college of business in the country. And my relationship with someone like Brendan is the kind of relationship I want to have with as many students as I possibly can. Because that’s what makes us a unique college here at GCU.
“We meet with so many students one-on-one to talk about their resume, their dreams, their core classes, how they want to springboard what they’ve done to something bigger and better. It has been neat because my time here overlapped with a student like Brendan, whom I met even before he was here. So there is a sense of pride, a sense of happiness for him and his family.”