Wearing pink shirts that proudly displayed "Ella Strong" on the front, Clemson defensive tackle Bryan Bresee and his family shed tears and embraced one another in their Maryland home as NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced his name.
"It's been a lifelong dream of mine to play in the NFL," Bresee said Thursday night on a conference call with New Orleans media. "Getting that call has been a moment that I've definitely always looked forward to, and to get a call from the Saints was something you can't even imagine until it happens."
The New Orleans Saints selected Bresee with the 29th overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.
The Damascus, Md., native possesses NFL size, standing at 6 feet 5, 305 pounds. He's explosive, boasting an impressive combination of length (32.5-inch arms) and speed (4.86 40-yard dash). Bresee showed off his strength at Clemon's pro day, putting up 28 reps on the bench press.
He's also versatile — Bresee has the ability to line up at multiple spots on the interior of the defensive line and even outside the tackles if needed. Clemson showed a lot of different defensive looks, and Bresee said the Tigers ran just about everything because they switched up schemes almost every week depending on the opponent.
"This player is an exceptional talent," Saints Coach Dennis Allen said. "He's big, he's physical, he's athletic, he fills a position of need and I think he's going to be an outstanding addition to our team."
Bresee said the Saints are getting a player who is going to work hard every single day and do everything he needs to do to earn the respect of the players and coaches in the building.
The former Tiger should help fill the hole on the defensive line left by the departures of David Onyemata and Marcus Davenport in free agency. Per Pro Football Focus, Bresee boasted an 82.0 pass-rush grade, 24 pressures and 17 hurries in 2022. He dominated the North Carolina Tar Heels in the ACC Conference Championship, posting a 91.2 defensive grade and five pressures.
New Orleans met with Bresee at the combine and visited with him at Clemson, putting him through a workout and spending an evening with him and other Clemson players at the Palm Meadow Smokehouse. Allen said the defensive tackle did an outstanding job with everything the Saints put him through, both from a physical and mental standpoint. He said Bresee is the type of person the Saints want in their building.
"His athleticism and size is pretty impressive," Allen said. "His movement skills inside, they used him a lot on the move at Clemson. His ability to move and penetrate is something that we like."
Bresee came into Clemson with lofty expectations as the No. 1 recruit in the country. He quickly showed why with the Tigers, being named Freshman All-American and ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2020.
He dealt with injuries as a sophomore, suffering a torn ACL four games into 2021 and getting shoulder surgery in the ensuing offseason. Despite this, Bresee compiled 64 tackles, nine sacks, four pass breakups, an interception, a forced fumble and a safety in 26 games at Clemson.
Bresee also dealt with personal tragedy while at Clemson: His sister Ella died from brain cancer at the age of 15 in September 2022.
"This guy went through a lot, and that's challenging to have to go through," Allen said. "He's shown a lot of fortitude in his ability to overcome adversity."
The Clemson product said he's become a more mature person due to the adversity he's had to overcome.
"I've gone through a lot… a lot of things that make you grow up very quickly," Bresee said. "Just a lot of things that mature you pretty fast and a lot of people don't go through them and should never have to go through them."
Bresee said his sister would be glowing right now watching her big brother get drafted.
"She loved watching me play, she loved being around just the atmosphere of football," Bresee said.
Bresee watched the draft with his parents, two sisters, brother in law and his grandmother from his couch in Maryland. While he said it was emotional knowing how much Ella would've enjoyed the moment, he said she serves as his motivation ever since she started her fight.
"Watching her battle every single day and always keep a smile on her face and just stay so positive through all that was amazing to see," Bresee said. "It makes me think whatever I'm going through is not even as close to as hard as what she was battling every day."
Check out photos of New Orleans Saints 2023 NFL Draft first round selection Bryan Bresee, defensive tackle out of Clemson who was selected with the 29th pick.