Mark Sanchez hears it all the time, how much he resembles Adrian Grenier, the actor who plays Vincent Chase in the HBO show, “Entourage.” Turns out the similarity goes beyond appearance. Sanchez is starring in his own mini-version of “Entourage.”
The storyline: Young, fresh-faced star leaves his home in Los Angeles to start a promising new career in New York. (In the TV show, it’s a New York-to-Hollywood journey.) Sanchez, like Chase, brings some of his home with him. He invites an older brother to live with him, help him adjust to a new life and … well, be one of his boys.
Meet Brandon Sanchez, 30, who left the West Coast and will live with his kid brother for his entire rookie season with the Jets. He calls himself Mark’s “point man.” His presence already has prompted “Entourage” comparisons from Mark’s teammates, namely Nick Mangold, who refers to Brandon as “Drama” – Chase’s brother, the character played by Kevin Dillon.
Sanchez will be under a white-hot spotlight for the next 17 weeks, as he becomes the first rookie quarterback in Jets history to start opening day, but it won’t be a one-man show. In the shadows, away from the glare, he will have a strong support system – his family, mainly his older brothers.
Brandon is living with Mark in a rented cottage in Bedminster, N.J., and their older brother, Nick Jr., a lawyer in Costa Mesa, Calif., serves as Mark’s business manager. Their objective is simple: Create a winning environment for Mark. That means reducing the number of distractions, allowing him to concentrate on playing quarterback for the Jets.
“It makes life a lot less stressful,” Mark says. “If something pops up, Brandon is on it. He’s great with the little things. He’s someone I can trust. If we’re at a restaurant and someone comes up to me with a business card or an E-mail address, it goes right to Brandon.”
Nick, 36, a former quarterback at Yale, intercepts most of the off-the-field opportunities coming Mark’s way – i.e. sifting through endorsement offers, screening financial advisors and so on. Brandon, formerly an offensive tackle at DePauw University in Indiana, handles the day-to-day stuff. That could range from setting up a bank account to dealing with ticket requests.
“Basically, I’m a full-time brother,” says Brandon, who left his job in real estate finance to move East with Mark.
It’s kind of a pay-it-forward thing. Growing up in Mission Viejo, Calif., Nick Jr., made sure to help Brandon with sports and school. Now Brandon is trying to help Mark, albeit in a much larger arena.
The sense of family stems from their parents, Nick Sr., and Olga. They always were involved in their sons’ youth sports, whether it was volunteering in the snack shack at Pop Warner games or helping out as an assistant coach.
“Obviously, we can’t have Dad work as an assistant coach like he did in Little League, but we always find a way to come together and share in each other’s success,” Nick Jr. says.
He and Brandon used to live together and, when Mark decided to forego his senior season at USC, it was understood that Brandon would join Mark wherever he was drafted. Brandon is single, so it was easier for him to pack up and follow his kid brother.
It’s a big transition. Even though Sanchez projects a smart, sophisticated image in front of the camera, the reality is this is his first time away from home. USC was only a short drive (depending on freeway traffic) from his parents’ house, so this – living in the New York area – is a major adjustment.
“Nick and I have both been away to school, but Mark has been right there, in and around L.A.,” Brandon says. “You take a lot of things for granted, whether it’s your mom 35 minutes away, whether it’s the sunshine, whatever. If I can ease that burden just by providing a familiar face, being able to relate to him and empathize with him … that’s what I’m here for.”
They live in a fully-furnished, three-bedroom home in an affluent Jersey town, a bachelor pad that includes a dining room, a living room, a fireplace and a flat-screen TV, naturally. Originally, Mark toyed with the idea of living in Manhattan, but he didn’t want to deal with traffic and he wanted to be 30 minutes from the Jets’ facility in Florham Park, N.J.
“I can’t be late,” Sanchez told his brothers. “I’m the quarterback.”
Not that he spends a lot of time at home. On a typical day, Sanchez will be out the door by 6:30 a.m., not returning until about 8 p.m. Now, with the season fast approaching, he’ll be taking some work home with him. The Jets gave him a computer and a large-screen monitor so he can study opponents at home. Brandon’s jobs was setting up the computer.
Playing quarterback in the NFL is more than Sundays at 1. There’s an inordinate amount of after-hours work, probably double for a rookie. If Brandon can save his brother the headache of having to chase down paperwork for a New Jersey driver’s license, or take care of travel arrangements for family members who want to attend away games, it’s a victory.
“If (Mark) can spend an additional 10 hours in the film room or the trainers’ room,” Nick Jr., says, “it means we’re doing the right thing.”
Perhaps Mark learned a lesson from former USC teammate Matt Leinart, the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback who fostered his party-boy image with some bad decisions early in his career with the Cardinals. Anybody remember the hot tub photo?
Sanchez wants to avoid “non-football stress,” as he calls it. He relies on his family to insulate him from those distractions.
Almost every day is a new adventure for the Brothers Sanchez. They’ve learned that New York/New Jersey traffic is unpredictable. If the radio says there’s a 20-minute delay at the Lincoln Tunnel, add an hour, according to Brandon. As for the helix at the tunnel, “Man, that just annihilates me,” Brandon says, shaking his head.
They miss California, but they appreciate the passion of New York fans. Even though he hasn’t played a regular-season game yet, Sanchez is frequently recognized in public, although not everybody knows him yet. Once, on an airport shuttle bus, Mark and Brandon struck up a conversation with a stranger wearing LSU athletic shorts. The stranger quickly figured out that Mark played at USC.
“Oh, are you that Matt Leinart guy?” the guy asked.
Brandon busted out laughing, like only an older brother could laugh at an ego-deflating moment like that.
“He knows how to read me,” Mark says of his brother. “After a long day, he knows what to say and what not to say. He knows when I want to talk or when I’m tired and just want to go to bed.”
Says Nick Jr.: “Even if Mark were moving to New York to work on Wall Street, I still think we’d have Brandon there to get him get acclimated. We’re pretty tight as brothers. We always have each other’s back.”
Sort of like “Entourage,” with Vince’s homeys – Drama, Turtle and Eric, the business manager. (That, of course, would be Nick Jr.) What about Ari, the ruthless Hollywood agent?
Turns out he wasn’t that far from Sanchez on Thursday night at the Meadowlands. At the preseason finale, Sanchez bumped into Jeremy Piven, who plays Ari, and gave him a Jets cap. Hollywood has hit New York.
Prepare for a season of drama, small d.
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