For many in Apple Valley, Chris Brymer was a hometown hero, but now he’s homeless, and those who love the former USC football star are trying to reach out.
Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a disease from repetitive brain trauma. The symptoms include memory loss, confusion, impaired judgement, control problems and aggression. The former NFL player’s ex-wife, Melissa Brymer, said all of the symptoms describe her ex-husband.
Brymer, however, is now homeless and resisting help from loved ones.
Video of a violent confrontation that took place recently in a Costco parking lot in Victorville quickly went viral. The footage shows Brymer fending off an attacker. He is seen throwing punch after punch, until the attacker falls to the ground and backs off.
“Chris was kind of like a cat playing with a mouse right there…he was actually pretty nice,” said Apple Valley High School football coach Matt Rohrbaugh.
Rohrbaugh and Brymer were good friends and teammates at Apple Valley High School in the early 90s.
Brymer was recruited by John Robinson to play at USC before signing with the Dallas Cowboys and playing in NFL Europe.
His quarterback was former Heisman winner, Danny Wuerffel.
“To see anyone you know and love struggling in any way is painful and then wanting to help and not knowing what to do,” Wuerffel said.
Brymer’s final football stop was back home in Los Angeles with the XFL.
“The funny thing is our business was much more lucrative than football ended up being,” Melissa said.
Melissa and Brymer were high school sweethearts, meeting at age 15.
When his playing career ended, they had multiple homes in Orange County with a successful real estate business. But the couple lost it all as Brymer started exhibiting destructive behavior.
“It is, in my opinion, true CTE,” Melissa said. “I remember the first time I saw the definition. It was like they wrote every single line item about him.”
They divorced when their son was 2 years old. Today, he’s a 6 foot 1 inch tall 12-year old who will never be allowed to play football.
“After knowing what I know, that would be reckless and absolutely negligent on my part,” Melissa said.
Brymer’s mental instability cost him everything, and he’s been homeless for six years.
Neighbors and sheriff’s deputies said he had been living in a tent in a field across the street from his parents’ house.
“His mom won’t let him inside the house but she will let him go in there when she’s there and take a shower and stuff, clean up,” said Chris Fenoff, a local homeless man.
He would hunt for food in a dumpster outside a tattoo parlor in Hesperia, but after weeks of searching, Eyewitness News found him just over a mile from where he was a high school football star. He was sleeping under a tree on his parents’ front lawn.
When asked what he would tell Brymer, Rohrbaugh said he would ask his former friend to let himself get help from loved ones.
“…Chris, a lot of people are trying to help you right now, dude, take it,” said Rohrbaugh.
Brymer was very friendly and happy to take the food and water offered by Eyewitness News, but he denied ever knowing USC coach John Robinson, who recruited him. He even denied playing football.
When Rohrbaugh heard his former friend was found, he spent 20 minutes trying to convince Brymer to accept new help.
“That conversation was good because I got to talk to him and offer to help him, but it’s not him,” he said.
Experts said there is successful help out there for players with the illness, but Brymer’s mother said they have “been down this road before.”