Kyle Brady, a consensus All-American in 1994 and two-time All-Big Ten selection, was a stud tight end at Penn State — and it translated to the NFL. The ninth overall pick in the 1995 draft racked up more than 3,500 receiving yards in 13 NFL seasons while earning a reputation as a solid blocker.
Brady joined us for “Five Questions” this week to discuss Saquon Barkley’s chance to end the top-10 NFL draft drought, Mike Gesicki’s NFL future and former Nittany Lion tight end Adam Breneman.
Q: Believe it or not, since 1995 when you, Ki-Jana Carter and Kerry Collins went top 10, there’ve only been 7 Penn State guys picked in the top 10. The last one was LaVar Arrington in 2000. With Saquon Barkley set to come out, do you think that changes? Do you think he goes top 10 or even top 5 and ends that drought?
A: The way he’s playing right now and the season he’s putting together, I’d be surprised if he didn’t. He’s a special athlete. He’s been a little bottled up at times this year. Some of that is people are game-planning for him now. He’s not surprising anybody, so it’s a little scheme-related. But he’s putting it out there that clearly he’s a unique talent. He’s the type of talent that only comes along every so often. His explosiveness, agility and ability to change directions, the balance. They’re all really unique. I’d be pretty surprised if someone didn’t take him in a top-10 slot.
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Q: As a fellow tight end, I’m sure you keep an eye on Mike Gesicki. What have you seen from him over the years that impresses you?
A: He’s a tremendous athlete. He has great body control for a guy his size. I love how he high-points the ball. He’s aggressive in going to get the ball, using his strength and size to his advantage. I talked to him a little bit about this when I saw him this summer, but I’d like to see him have the opportunity to be a little bit more physical in the running game. The way they align him, it doesn’t give him an opportunity to improve upon his physical presence as a blocker. I don’t know if he ever has his hand in the dirt, where he has to align from a low position to take on a linebacker or defensive end. He’s always in a two-point stance. But I mean, I’d also like to see him get the ball, get six to eight opportunities per game. I think he’s been underutilized this season. As a receiver, the more touches you get, the better you do. That’s just a fact that any receiver would acknowledge; your confidence grows, how fluid you are after the catch. It doesn’t seem like the lack of opportunities has affected him too adversely because, when it’s coming his way, he still seems more comfortable. But I think we could see even more out of him with more opportunities. It seems like they’re trying to do that in creative ways with the whole jump-throw by Barkley; that was pretty unique. But I was discouraged by the fact that we weren’t getting him the ball downfield in the first five to six games. The only stuff he was catching was flat routes. That’s just a big-time under-utilization of his ability.
Q: How do you think he translate to the NFL?
A: He’s got all of the skills necessary to be a tight end that teams use out in the slot. He’ll create some mismatches there. He can be an H-back type of position where he moves into the backfield and does unique things there. He’s not there yet in regards to having big-time NFL blocking ability for a tight end, but I’ve told him that can change. With what he has that allows him to be explosive and high-point the ball, he’s got the strength in his legs and his core. If you’ve got that strength — and he’s going to get stronger throughout his 20s and even his 30s, if he’s fortunate to play that long — now for him, the raw materials are there. It’s just about technique and desire. If he commits to mastering the technique of blocking and he has the desire to master those techniques and move people and be a real SOB at the point of attack, a lot of it is the attitude. ... Some guys don’t want it. They’re not willing to do that because they don’t believe they can. I think there’s a little bit of that with him right now. I don’t see him approaching defensive linemen to make a block with a nasty attitude. He’s got a nasty attitude when he goes up and gets the ball. I’d like to see that attitude translate into his blocking.
Q: I know you’re a Cedar Cliff guy. Do you keep tabs on Adam Breneman? And if so, how proud of him are you that he’s back and playing at such a high level?
A: He’s resurrected his career in a way you just never would’ve expected when he kind of called it because he had so many injuries at Penn State. He and I have kept in-touch occasionally through the years. When he was in high school coming out, I sat down and had lunch with him and his dad, and we just talked through the recruiting process. ... I’m real happy for him. It looks like now he might have a chance to go to the next level.
Q: You served as Penn State’s honorary captain before the White Out game against Michigan. What was the coolest part of that experience?
A: Bringing my (12-year-old) son on the field, the fact that he could be down there in that environment. I’ve been on the Penn State field a good number of times back in my playing days, but it’s been a while. And I played in a lot of NFL games and was captain for a season with the (Jacksonville) Jaguars, so I’ve had the thrill of going out there and experiencing the coin toss. But to have my son there, and then actually go out to the coin toss, it did bring back a lot of memories for me. There’s no more intense moment emotionally than just before the kickoff. I worked pretty hard to control my emotions because sometimes, if you let them get away from you, for me anyway, it didn’t always benefit me. I did better as a player to manage and control the emotions the best I could. But there’s no time where you feel it brimming over more than right in that moment when you’re out there for the coin toss. ... Being 45 and not having done it in a long time, I look into the eyes of these young men from both sides, the Michigan guys and the Penn State guys. I see all that emotion. I see all that passion that’s about to spill out on the field. It just brought back a lot of memories.