For former Palisades quarterback Ethan Brader, his 2017 District 11 Class 2A championship will be an eternal connection to his past, present and future. It also has helped him make some adjustments along a once unforeseen path.
The former Pirates standout has kept in regular contact with most his teammates, who all have taken different paths since leaving the Nockamixon Township-based school. Most of them gather for a week-long or more stay at a summer beach house in Spring Lake, N.J., that belongs to the family of late assistant coach Tom Poynton.
But Brader’s collegiate career has taken different spins from the consistent routes he had as a quarterback and safety for the Pirates over the better part of three-plus years.
Brader began his collegiate career at Muhlenberg College in 2019 as a freshman backup quarterback. At Palisades, Brader threw for 2,509 yards and had 35 touchdown passes, but he ran for 2,609 yards including a record-setting 1,729 yards his senior season of 2018.
In his freshman year, the Mules posted a school best 13-1 record and advanced to the semifinals of NCAA Division III playoffs.
“We had a good quarterback there at the time,” recalled Brader. “But I wanted to try and help the team in any way that I could. They spoke to me about converting to wide receiver for my sophomore year, and I was all for it.”
However, COVID-19 shutdown the Centennial Conference season in 2020, and Brader would have to wait another season for this transition.
When it happened, Brader adapted well mainly due to his effectiveness running the football as a quarterback in high school. His wide receiver experiment was short-lived, and a new chapter as a running back was ahead. His father, Tom, a former Palisades assistant coach who directs a summer speed camp at Quakertown, played a pivotal role in his transformation.
“I knew I would only have to worry about running my route rather than more than one as a quarterback,” noted Brader. “But during the preseason, the coaches decided to move me to running back. My dad helped me a lot with my knee drive.
“I knew it wouldn’t be a big move because I always liked to run as a quarterback. It was just a matter of getting started in the backfield and seeing my holes. I just had to be patient and let my line work. It wasn’t a big change, and I was really looking forward to it.”
Brader rushed for 438 yards his junior year last season, and he had 378 yards this past season, being the team’s second-leading rusher in both campaigns. The Mules recently ended their season with an overall 7-4 record and captured the Centennial-MAC Bowl with a 48-21 victory over Lebanon Valley.
Muhlenberg head coach Nate Milne figured it would be a smooth transition.
“He broke more tackles than he did last year, and he ran with more authority,” said Milne about Brader. “We knew he could make the change, and he really has done a great job for us.”
Former Palisades head coach Kevin Ronalds also expected Brader to adapt easily.
“Since he has become a running back, he has done well,” said Ronalds. “It has allowed him to show his versatility and his football IQ. I know he loves the role because he gets to do so many types of plays, and he likes the physicality of the position.”
Yet, Brader’s most memorable moment came in his freshman year when he threw a 93-yard touchdown pass – the second-longest in school history and his lone one of the season – to Ryan Dimmick.
“That will probably always stay with me,” he said. “His entire family was there, and I’ll never forget his mother coming up to me and thanking me.”
Brader also would love the opportunity to coach someday in the future, and he doesn’t plan to lose contact with those who made his high school career a special one.
“I really would like to coach someday,” he said. “I was lucky to be around coaches who not only taught us football, but they also taught us about life. I felt very fortunate to be part of the atmosphere and the support around Palisades.
“That’s also helped a lot of us stay in touch with each other. We were a family then, and we still are one.”
Until then, Brader is anxious to have one more season with the Mules.
“I am looking forward to getting back on the field,” said Brader. “I know what I can do, and I want to get better. We all have some unfinished business left to accomplish.”
Wherever the next path leads him, Brader is sure to make it a productive one.