It's been called "The World's Toughest Job Interview." For six days at the NFL Combine (Feb. 24-March 2), college football's best will be measured, interviewed, tested, watched and analyzed by countless NFL coaches, general managers and scouts conducting all of their due diligence before the NFL Draft. To prepare, nearly two dozen prospects have traveled to IMG Academy for six-plus weeks of Physical, Mental, Communication, Nutrition, Vision and psychological training with Athletic & Personal Development program specialists.
Hailing from a D-II school with an enrollment about 1/4 the size of some of the other combine trainees, Brandon Fusco hasn't garnered the same national fanfare. His performance, though, has caught the eyes of NFL scouts. The 6'4", 300-pound center, who won the Gene Upshaw D-II Offensive Lineman of the Year award, talks about overcoming the odds, the Pittsburgh Steelers and foregoing fast food.
Brandon Fusco on...
...training with all of the athletes at IMG Academy:At first, I felt a little behind everyone. I come from a small school that doesn't have the same facilities as some of the big boys. The biggest thing is technique. I've been working one-one-one with Jeff Dillman, who has been tremendous. After three weeks, I could notice a difference and improvement.This place is so unique. I've never seen anything like it. This is as big as my college campus. It's unbelievable.
...being chosen for the Senior Bowl: When I entered college, I never thought I'd be in this situation, but I've worked hard every year to get to this point. To get a Senior Bowl invite, I was shocked at first to be picked over some of the D-I guys, but I've put a lot into this. You can't be scared. You're there for a reason. I just have to go in and show what I can do.
...his playing style and model offensive lineman: Very aggressive. I love being mean on the field. I talk a little trash here and there. I'm not a dirty player, but I'll play to the whistle.Every time I can, I watch Nick Mangold from the Jets. He might be the best center in the league. I look at how he uses his hands and feet, then try to apply it to my game.
...his hometown team:I was born in Dayton, Ohio, so I grew up a bit of a Bengals fan. I moved to Pittsburgh when I was around six, so I moved to the Steelers. This summer, I worked out with a bunch of the Steelers offensive linemen - Max Starks, Chris Kemoeatu, Willie Colon. It was unbelievable. It was awesome to see them working out every day, still trying to make themselves better. They gave me some good advice: âStay positive. Don't get overwhelmed. You're a good player, so just do what you do.â
...his hometown support:I've gotten a lot of phone calls and text messages from people I haven't heard from in a long time, including my high school coach, saying stuff like âWe're all proud of you.â It feels awesome. It makes me work harder to think my whole town is behind me. Itwould be great to play for the Steelers, then all of my friends and family could go. But any team is good for me. I'll play for anyone. I just want the chance to play.
...preparing for the Combine: I get nervous just watching the guys go through it on TV. But that's why I'm here. Everyone here is going to get me ready mentally and physically, so all I have to do is go there and perform. We've even been working on communication. I'm not shy by any means, but they are helping me better my communication skills with improvisational exercises. I've never experienced anything like it and helps all of us get to know each other better.
...what it's like eating with a group of offensive linemen: We all eat together, and we eat a lot. The nutritionist, Steve Smith, makes sure we eat healthy, though. I was used to fast food. It's a whole new life for me here. Eating veggies and fruit is something I'm getting used to doing. It was all meat and potatoes for me before. I know it's helping me, so I'm sticking with it.