This is about dreams and how they can come true.
It’s about Jeff Braun of West Virginia, a kid who did the college athlete thing the way it was supposed to be done.
He wasn’t a star on the football field, but he was a starter, a three-year starter.
Off the field he was a star. He made his grades, got his degree; if he wasn’t all-Big 12 in football, he was in academics.
But there was that dream. He wanted to play in the NFL.
Oh, he heard over and over that he couldn’t, that he wasn’t athletic enough.
He just wasn’t ready to believe that.
At West Virginia he probably never was their best offensive lineman, but he always did his job, and that changed from year to year, almost day to day — tackle, center, guard.
He did what they asked him to do, did it well — no matter how many offensive line coaches they threw at him.
Draft day came and he hoped to hear his name but knew it was a long shot. He accepted that, knowing he had given all he could give, all he had, and then when his career ended he set full force on preparing himself for The Combine and/or Pro Day, working on his perceived weaknesses.
He showed skills, more speed, more strength, more agility than the pro scouts had been led to believe he had.
“You really want to perform well,” he said following his Pro Day workout. “For a guy like me, it’s my opportunity. I didn’t get to go to The Combine, so you circled this date. Every day of training, you focused on this. This was my Combine. To perform the way I did, I was quite happy.”
No, he didn’t get drafted but somehow it isn’t the worst thing in the world to have the phone ring and find out it’s the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens offering you a free agent contract, especially when you are a hometown guy.
Then this weekend his big chance arrived.
It was off to rookie camp.
“I tell you what after all that combine/pro day training, it felt amazing to finally get back to some X’s and O’s,” he tweeted when it was over.
It appears he made the most of his opportunity.
Following camp, the hometown paper from Carroll County, Md., caught up with Raven Coach John Harbaugh, who addressed Braun and linebacker Brandon Copeland’s performance.
“Those two guys specifically, Braun and Copeland, looked really good. Big, good, athletic guys, smart players, guys that can definitely make it in the NFL,” Harbaugh said.
Now that is not exactly a guaranteed three-year contract, but to a kid who prior to his Pro Day didn’t seem to have any NFL future, that has to read like one.
Now here’s the thing. Braun had been a guard at WVU the past two seasons and started at right tackle as a sophomore.
In mini-camp, he did nothing but center, a position he played only as a backup to starter Joey Madsen.
“It went well,” Braun said. “The biggest thing was trying to get the offense down in as little time as possible. They’re throwing a lot at us each day and we don’t have enough meeting time to go over everything, so you have to study on your own and be able to understand everything, but it was fun and I had a blast out here.”
Will he be with the Ravens opening day? Who knows.
Will he be in the NFL? Again, who knows.
But what you do know is that if he isn’t, it won’t be because he didn’t put in the work or because he didn’t learn the playbook.
And if he is there when the season opens, the one thing you can be sure of is it will be because he earned it and that no one handed him a spot.
Email Bob Hertzel at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.
This is about dreams and how they can come true.
University hands Huskies first loss; East edges Elkins
The mercy rule has been a familiar part of North Marion’s softball season.
Through the first seven games, the Huskies regularly pounded their opponents with stingy defense, sharp pitching and timely hitting. Rarely did a game go all seven innings for the previously undefeated team.
Huggins signs junior college guard
Coach Bob Huggins completed his 2014-15 West Virginia University recruiting class on Wednesday and deemed it a success after receiving a signed letter of intent from junior college guard Tarik Phillip.
Phillip joins Jevon Carter of Maywood, Ill., and Daxter Miles of Baltimore’s Dunbar High and out of Notre Dame Prep in Massachusetts in the 2014-15 recruiting class.
HERTZEL COLUMN: WVU gymnast hopes to stick her final landing
The reaction, one suspects, was the same as most people who see either a picture of West Virginia University gymnast Hope Sloanhoffer or meet her for the first time in person — a quick double take, maybe even stumbling over the first few words of an introduction.
Pirates shut out by Reds’ Cueto, 4-0
Johnny Cueto was on his game, and the only thing that the Pirates could do was watch.
Cueto pitched his third career shutout against the team that beat him in the NL wild card game, and Joey Votto hit a two-run homer that led the Cincinnati Reds over the Pirates 4-0 Wednesday for their first winning series this season.
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Stringing together some odds and ends which may be of interest to you:
• A beautiful lady came up to my table last Sunday at brunch in the Village of Heritage Point’s main dining room with a message.
COLUMN: Extend summer practices without over-extending athletes
Last week we told you about a proposal that would extend the summer practice period for West Virginia high schools.
It’s already cleared the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission Board of Control. Now it’s up to the West Virginia Board of Education to decide if the current three-week window should be expanded by five weeks.
Bussie looks forward to WNBA
On Tuesday, the weather turned cold, the wind blew and amongst the raindrops that fell a few snowflakes fluttered quietly to Earth.
It was as if it was a celebration of Asya Bussie being drafted on Monday night by the Minnesota Lynx, champions of the WNBA, with the third selection of the second round, the 15th overall pick of the draft.
HERTZEL COLUMN: Jackie Robinson’s impact extends beyond baseball
It is Jackie Robinson Day as I sit here writing this today, and I feel as though I am doing it in a world gone mad.
Every player in Major League Baseball wore No. 42 on Tuesday in honor of Jackie Robinson, the man who took racism’s best shot and integrated the game that was known then as the National Pastime even though it was as white a Ku Klux Klan robe.
Pirates finish off suspended game, fall in nightcap
Mike Leake doubled and hit a two-run homer Tuesday night, ending Gerrit Cole’s winning streak and leading the Cincinnati Reds to a 7-5 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates that completed two days full of homers and delays.
WVU’s Harlee named Big 12 Scholar-Athlete
The Big 12 Conference announced its Scholar-Athlete of the Year recipients for the 2014 winter sport season, and West Virginia University senior Jess Harlee earns the honor for women’s basketball.
Harlee was selected as the award winner based on a vote of each respective sport’s head coaching group, with coaches not permitted to vote for their own student-athletes.
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