CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) — Defensive tackle Bryan Bresee put on a strong face and a good showing for NFL teams at Clemson's pro day on Tuesday.
Bresee, surrounded by teammates and family, continued moving forward on his pro football path after t he death of younger sister, Ella, this past September. Bresee missed four games because of 15-year-old Ella's passing and a troubling kidney infection in October that sapped his strength and scared his family about whether his health was at risk.
Through it all, Bresee leaned on the game he's played since he was five. “Football was my escape for a lot of things,” he said last month. “Having my teammates, my family, my coaches, a lot of support around me was definitely crucial during that time.”
Bresee, the 6-foot-5, 298-pounder, lifted weights, ran short-shuttle and three-cone drills and did defensive line workouts for personnel from all 32 pro teams including Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin, New York Giants defensive coordinator Wink Martindale and GMs from the Carolina Panthers and Jacksonville Jaguars.
While Bresee's strength was impressive — he bench pressed 225 pounds 28 times as teammates and Clemson staff shouted encouragement — it was his mental fortitude that stood out to several of his teammates also participating at Clemson's pro day.
“He’s just an inspiration to me, an inspiration to all his teammates,” said Clemson defensive end K.J. Henry. “We love seeing him do great.”
Bresee stood on his 40-yard dash time of 4.86 seconds run at last month's NFL combine, although his bench press reps were an increase of six from his combine showing.
Bresee chose to meet with NFL teams after his workout and not speak to the media.
Bresee came to Clemson three seasons ago as the No. 1 college football recruit, a freaky strong athlete who would plug right into the defensive tackle void left by Tigers two-time national championship star Dexter Lawrence.
Bresee was named the Atlantic Coast Conference's defensive rookie of the year after the 2020 season in which he had four sacks, 33 tackles and a safety in 10 starts as a freshman.
Expectations were understandably high his sophomore season. But it was cut short just four games in with a season-ending knee ligament injury in a loss at North Carolina State.
Bresee's rehab and return to the football field this season coincided with the deteriorating health of Ella, who died from an aggressive form of brain cancer.
“You are the best sister a brother could ask for and I know for a fact heaven has gained a beautiful angel today, Love you forever and always Ella bear,” Bryan said in a social media post about Ella's death.
Clemson's coaches and players had started an “Ella Strong” campaign to support her in her fight. It became one of consolation for Bryan Bresee and his family after Ella's funeral.
The support “motivated me to push forward and go on,” he said.
A frightening family development was Bresee's own health scare in October when he was diagnosed with a kidney infection and missed more time to recover.
Bresee finished 2022 with just 16 tackles, although 5.5 of those were behind the line of scrimmage. These days, Bresee is closer to the promise he showed as a freshman and projected as a potential first-rounder in next month's draft.
“We also love seeing him healthy,” Henry, his Clemson linemate, said. “I know a lot of people have wanted to see that version of him for a while.”
Another Clemson defensive end, Myles Murphy, is projected as a high first-round pick. Murphy tweaked his hamstring preparing for the combine and is holding a separate workout in April for NFL teams.
Murphy came in with Bresee and is confident both will have success at the next level. When Bresee was hurting, Murphy said his Tiger family rushed in to help him grieve and recover.
“It was really something we all wanted to do,” Murphy said. “It just felt right to do.”
A grateful Bresee said the support was a blessing to him and his family in difficult times. “It motivated me to push on,” he said.
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