U.S. Men’s alum Ernst Brun making most of NFL opportunity with Redskins
By Bran Bournival
Football can be a fickle friend.
One second, a player is on top of the world. The next, the game has knocked him down almost to square one.
Ernst Brun Jr. knows the highs and lows of the sport, which is why he hasn’t taken for granted – not even for a second – the opportunity he has as a member of the Washington Redskins.
A 6-foot-3, 251-pound tight end from Iowa State, Brun looked like a lock for the NFL after a junior year in which he made 26 catches for 330 yards and six TDs.
But his senior season was marred with injuries, and he made just six catches for 47 yards in eight games with the Cyclones. A strange case of full body cramping where a “muscle breakdown” caused from raised creatine phosphokinase levels all but wiped out any chance of being drafted in 2014, and a tryout with Oakland didn’t yield anything in return.
Unfazed, Brun went back to work, looking for that second shot.
“With that injury, a lot of people they don’t make that comeback,” Brun said. “I feel as if I didn’t take anything for granted after that. I was scared to play — to cramp up again and things like that — but I came back and got stronger. It felt pretty good.”
A four-game stint in Canton, Ohio, this past summer might have reignited the flame even more for the tight end as he picked up all-tournament honors after helping the U.S. Men’s National Team to a gold medal in theInternational Federation of American Football World Championship.
The Stone Mountain, Ga., resident scored three touchdowns, including one in a 59-12 win over Japan in the gold medal game to lead the squad to a perfect slate at the games.
“It was a blessing,” Brun said. “It was an honor to play for my country, to suit up with these guys that I’ve never met and I’ve only seen before. They were from everywhere. Some of these guys played overseas and things like that. It was a good deal. Coach (Dan) Hawkins really got us going. We had a really good team, and we ended up winning the gold. It was an honor.
“I wanted to get after it after that. After I got done winning that gold medal, I knew that possibly I could get a call from an NFL team. It got me going. I loved it. I loved the coaching there and the players as well. We all rallied together, and it got me going.”
The call came Aug. 15 from the Redskins after the team placed tight ends Niles Paul (fractured ankle) and Logan Paulsen (torn ligament) on injured reserve.
“It’s crazy, man, to say the least,” Brun said. “I’m going out here every day to try to prove to these coaches that I can be on this team. The playbook itself, the first couple days it was pretty bad, but now I’m getting the hang of it.
“I’m still learning every day and going out there and working. Logan Paulsen — he is helping me as well. I asked him to guide me through the playbook a little bit. I’m going to start working out with Kirk (Cousins) after practice a little bit to get going, too.”
What faces Brun is a battle to stay on a roster that includes Derek Carrier, Chase Dixon, Je’Ron Hamm, Devin Mahina, Jordan Reed and D.J. Williams at his position.
Since joining the team, Brun has cut out all social media and kept his circle of friends small.
The focus now is on making friends on the team and proving to Washington that he’s a capable NFL tight end.
He knows the game has given him a second chance, and he’s going to make the most of it.
“(This means) everything,” he said. “I feel as if now it’s one of those things that if I don’t get it now, I won’t get it later.
“That’s how opportunity works. I feel if you get one opportunity, you have to capitalize on the opportunity and you have to make it work, right now. I may not get a third chance. I got a second one. God blessed me with that, but I have to make this work right here.”