Brendan Haisenleder understands the specialness of his senior football season, which came to an end Friday with a 42-21 Division 8 District Final loss to Clarkston Everest Collegiate.
He is well aware that what he accomplished at Marine City Cardinal Mooney was extraordinary.
But when asked to recap it, none of the personal milestones came up.
“It’s really awesome seeing the program and how it used to be a couple years ago and how it’s turned around,” Haisenleder said. “Just seeing the growth as a program, going from having a roster of 15 kids and now we’re at 30. It’s really awesome, and I’m really proud of how far the Mooney program has come.”
He’s certainly not wrong. Mooney was 8-3 this season, winning a playoff game for the first time since 2011 when the team was playing in the 8-player format. The first-round victory against Marlette was the first 11-player playoff win for the Cardinals since 2005.
They won the Detroit Catholic League Intersectional 2, and the 15 wins over the past two seasons were more than the previous six seasons combined.
“I think that one big thing is the work in the offseason that all of the kids put in and all of the coaches,” Haisenleder said.
“We were getting a lot of stuff we needed to get done going into the season, we took everything very seriously, and we played very hard and physical on gamedays.”
But it’s undeniable that Haisenleder was at the heart of it, and his statistics tell quite a bit of the story.
He rushed for 2,302 yards, easily setting a new Mooney season record, and scored 30 offensive touchdowns. On defense, he recorded 148 tackles and five interceptions.
Mike McAndrews, Mooney’s director of admissions and boys basketball coach, didn’t mince words when he tweeted about Haisenleder’s status in Mooney history.
“The best football player to ever wear a Mooney uniform,” McAndrews wrote, tagging Haisenleder. “He took this program to new heights. He will be playing on Saturdays next year and will make a college coach very happy.”
Haisenleder wouldn’t say that he was surprised by his success this season. But he did admit that he exceeded his own very high expectations. By Week 4, he already had eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark.
“When I play, I have a lot of confidence,” he said. “I put a lot of pressure on myself that I have to put the work in so I can do the best I can to help my team. One of the goals I had was to become the single-season rushing leader at our school. … My offensive line did a great job.”
Haisenleder’s success has led to college interest. He has six offers to play at the next level, four from NAIA schools and two from Division III.
At 5-foot-8, 190 pounds, he knows he’s fighting an uphill battle in that regard, but it’s made him even more driven to succeed.
“There kind of is a chip on my shoulder,” he said. “Seeing guys that are very similar to me getting offers, and I think, ‘Man I’m right there.’”
The best football player to ever wear a Mooney uniform @BHaisenleder. He took this program to new heights. He will be playing on Saturdays next year and will make a college coach very happy. pic.twitter.com/vIaOWdhDVg
— Mike McAndrews (@CM_hoopsCoach) November 5, 2022
Haisenleder’s football idol is Barry Sanders, who he was able to meet at an event in October. The size is an immediate comparison to make, and it’s easy to see how any athlete – even if they were born six years after Sanders retired – could be engrossed by Sanders highlights. But it’s Sanders’ humility that Haisenleder most wants to emulate.
“One of my favorite things about him was how humble he was,” Haisenleder said. “When he would score, he would just hand the ball to the ref and act like he’d been there before. That’s another thing I take very big pride in.”
Haisenleder said he will now take more time to figure out what his next step will be, although things won’t really slow down much for him. Conditioning for basketball already has started.
He’s a guard on the Cardinals’ basketball team, and an outfielder on the baseball team. While football became his main focus as he neared high school, he said he loves all three.
It helps that all three teams are seeing quite a bit of success at Mooney, and that many of Haisenleder’s teammates overlap on all three.
“It is cool at a small school that a lot of the same guys play the same sports,” he said. “There’s a really big brotherhood between the same guys. The family never really changes that much, and we’re really growing in chemistry with one another.”
Paul Costanzo served as a sportswriter at The Port Huron Times Herald from 2006-15, including three years as lead sportswriter, and prior to that as sports editor at the Hillsdale Daily News from 2005-06. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Sanilac, Huron, Tuscola, Saginaw, Bay, Arenac, Midland and Gladwin counties.
PHOTOS (Top) Cardinal Mooney’s Brendan Haisenleder finishes one of his 30 touchdowns this fall. (Middle) Haisenleder works to break a tackle during a Week 8 win over Whitmore Lake. (Photos by Lindsey VanTiem.)