by Michael Ambrose
Every year there are 100,000 high school football seniors.
Of those 100,000, just 9,000 will make it to the college level.
From that select 9,000, only 215 players will make it on to a National Football League (NFL) roster each year, according to the NFL players association. What is a pipedream for nearly every person who laces up cleats and pulls on his helmet, is nearly within grasp for one Chapman alum.
DJ Brandel (’13) is a former four-year-starter at left tackle for Chapman’s football team, and current professional football player for the Texas Revolution, a member of the Indoor Football League (IFL).
“There are a lot of guys that would kill to be in my position,” Brandel said. “It means a lot [to play pro-football]. It’s a privilege to be out there. Coming from a D3 [Division III], there are guys from D2 [Division II] and D1 [Division I] guys from every school, and not all those guys get a chance.”
Brandel, who was named to the first team All-Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) his senior season, was close to his ultimate goal of reaching the NFL last year. He engaged in talks with the Kansas City Chiefs, New York Jets and Houston Texans leading up to the NFL draft, but did not receive an invite from any NFL team to their training camps over the summer. Instead he turned his focus to the lower levels of professional football to work on his game.
“My hand placement that is the most important thing I need to get better at,” Brandel said, who realized his hand placement was not as good as it needed to be while playing current Nebraska Danger defensive lineman, and former St. Louis Ram, Adrian Davis in the second game of the season.
The IFL is filled with past and future NFL players. The IFL’s most successful NFL’er is Buffalo Bills running back Fred Jackson, who played for the Sioux City Bandits, and is a former Division III football player, just like Brandel.
“This is a league made for you to move higher,” Brandel said. “They want to see that you have great technique, and that you excel with that technique.”
Brandel is taking advantage of the tremendous amount of time being a professional athlete affords to get better.
“I get up around 5 a.m. every day to get to work outs at 6 a.m.,” Brandel said. “Then we’ve got practice from 8-10:30 a.m., and meetings and film after that.”
According to Brandel, the largest difference between playing professionally than at Chapman is the uncertainty of his situation.
“You need to make sure every week that you are playing as well as you can. You can’t get comfortable, or get lazy, cause they will cut you,” Brandel said. “We had a running back, last week he scored two touchdowns, and then he got cut. We don’t even know why.”
Though the job insecurity that is inherent in the lower levels of professional football may bother some, Brandel thrives on the competition.
“It makes you work harder cause guys are working to beat you. You got to make sure that you are always pushing your self,” Brandel said.
Brandel hopes that his hard work will pay off with an invite to an NFL training camp, as NFL teams are still tracking him.
“The Chiefs called my agent the other day,” Brandel said.
Brandel will send out a cut-up of his film after his fourth game of the season, and hope for a call to the NFL.