Leading up to the 2013 NFL Draft, current and former Steelers’ players will be sharing their Draft Day Memories, starting from the time they went to the NFL Scouting Combine, through the moment they were drafted. In this installment, former Steelers tight end Mark Bruener, the team’s No. 1 pick in 1995 out of the University of Washington and current BLESTO scout for the team, shares his memories.
I can remember showing up at the combine and how overwhelming it was for myself to literally be inundated and you felt like you were being attacked and pulled in 900 different directions. It’s something you know is going to be the biggest platform of your life so far, the opportunity to go and compete with the best of the best. I remember all of these people were pulling and prodding and the doctors were asking me all of these questions. It’s like are you kidding me, this is really going on. I can remember how nervous I was every day waking up and making sure I was being myself, making sure I was doing everything the right way and answering the questions the right way. It’s definitely an overwhelming experience, but rewarding on the other hand because it was the first time I was able to interact with a lot of the players at my position that I heard about throughout the college season. Now I had the chance to meet and talk to them and became friends with a lot of them, and am still friends with them to this day.
All of the NFL head coaches and general managers are there and it’s very intimidating because you look at them and you wonder what they are thinking. I remember talking to Coach (Bill) Cowher and leaving that interview and it went by in a blink of an eye. You walk away and are like what just happened. I don’t remember what I said, and just hoped it was the right thing that I said.
After the combine in March you have your pro day. I remember at the University of Washington pro day the tight ends coach from the Dallas Cowboys was there early and wanted to work me out by himself. I met him in the gym and was working out. I jumped up to catch a pass and sprained my right ankle pretty bad to where I couldn’t finish the workout. I remember hobbling down the stairs to the training room, passing all of the scouts that were there for the workout, asking what happened, was I going to work out. I was devastated. I thought that ruined my chances of being drafted and there was only one coach there. I was thinking I really blew my chance.
I did hear back from a couple of teams after that. Detroit called for a pre-draft interview. I went back and met with the coaches there. I was in Detroit and my agent called and said Pittsburgh wants to meet you as well. I flew from Detroit to Pittsburgh and Dr. (James) Bradley checked out my ankle.
When it came to who was going to draft me I was completely in the dark. The funny thing is a lot of times people read the predictions and they have a player slotted to go somewhere and you just never, ever know. I remember waking up at my parent’s house that morning and how nervous I was. You don’t know where you are going to end up. You have no idea what your future holds. It’s decided that day. I was on the phone with my agent a lot of the time. He was telling me you could go here, you could go there. You never know where you are going to end up.
I had the draft on television well before it actually officially started. Any time someone would talk at the house you would tell them to hush because you wanted to hear the TV. I remember right when the Steelers pick came up, the 27the pick, the phone rang. I was thinking holy smokes this is great. They asked is this Mark and I said yes, and they said hold on a moment and there was nothing on the other end. I didn’t know what to expect and I was listening to the silence. Then the commissioner read my name at the podium and that is when I got to talk to Coach Cowher and all of the staff and they were congratulating me. It was like my dream finally came true. I was glad I didn’t go to New York for the draft. I wanted to be home with my family.
It was very exhilarating. My entire family was there. It was a great experience. You are so excited, but you are numb too. It’s surreal that it just happened. Everybody was so excited. The phone did not stop ringing for hours afterwards. My college coaches and high school coaches were calling to say congratulations. People from our community were calling. The day was a blur.
I remember first coming to Pittsburgh not long after the draft and walking into Three Rivers Stadium and thinking this is where champions are made. The amazing thing to me, I didn’t know what to expect, but just the calmness and how genuine everyone was. You really felt like it was a family type of environment as soon as you got there. Reflecting back it’s amazing how fortunate I was to be a part of the Steelers organization, and still be a part of it.