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New Orleans Saints defensive tackle Bryan Bresee recalls uncertainty, exhilaration of 2023 NFL Draft night

'It's a super special moment, just a rush of emotions'

New Orleans Saints defensive lineman Bryan Bresee jumps over the Atlanta Falcons offensive line on the field goal block attempt.
New Orleans Saints defensive lineman Bryan Bresee jumps over the Atlanta Falcons offensive line on the field goal block attempt.

Even if Bryan Bresee wanted to forget, the memory is too fresh for him to do that.

But the New Orleans Saints' first-round pick from the 2023 NFL Draft – No. 29 overall pick – can't possibly erase the reflections from April 27 of last year.

"When our season (at Clemson) ended in December, right to January, going out and training and prepping for the draft, (NFL) Combine, pro day and all that other stuff was definitely kind of a sprint getting through everything," the defensive tackle said. "And then when draft day comes around, it's definitely a very stressful day. Not only for me, but for my family.

"But I think toward the end of it, it was one of the best days of my life – just finding out what team I was going to play for and coming to a team like the Saints, it was just super, super exciting for me and my family.

A graphic featuring Clemson defensive lineman Bryan Bresee is displayed during the 2023 NFL Draft on Thursday, April 27, 2023 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Aaron Doster/NFL)

"For me, draft day was just hanging out with my family, just kind of doing normal stuff. I think we might have gone on a walk, went and got some lunch somewhere – just doing anything to keep your mind off it, because that's definitely a long day right there, waiting for the draft to start and then it's another three-, four-hour kind of time frame where you're just sitting there waiting. So my family definitely helped me through that, tried to keep my mind off it."

Twenty-eight players were selected before Bresee was nabbed by the Saints, who added a quality player to the interior defensive line. And the wait for Bresee, who totaled 4.5 sacks, nine quarterback hits, seven tackles for loss, six passes defensed and 24 tackles while playing in all 17 games as a rookie, was an exercise in patience.

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"That's probably the biggest thing, just the uncertainty of it," he said. "Sitting there and you might hear one or two things, people saying, 'You might go here, (or) you might go here,' but at the end of the day you're really not sure.

"So, just kind of sitting there and then being grateful for whatever opportunity comes along, knowing wherever you got picked, that's where you're supposed to be. Just believing that and letting the process go from there, because at that point all the work is put in and everything is done, there's nothing more you can do.

"Just being confident in the work you've put in and then leading up to that day, knowing that whatever team drafts you, that's going to be the right fit for you and it'll all work out."

And when his name finally was called?

"It's hard to describe. A lot of emotion," he said. "I started playing tackle football when I was 5, and my dream forever – there's video of me in the first grade saying I want to play in the NFL. Like, that was my dream forever.

"And just to have your family and friends around you when it happens. It's a super special moment, just a rush of emotions. I feel like every emotion kind of runs through you at that point. A great feeling when the dust is settled, just a really amazing feeling."

All family, except Bresee's sister, Ella.

Ella died from brain cancer in 2022, at the age of 15. But Bresee carried her with him before that day, and has made sure to honor her since.

"It was definitely tough, her not being there, just because she'd seen everything, been through my whole process with me. Clemson, everything," he said. "And then for her not to be at, arguably, the biggest moment of my life up to that point, it was tough.

"But just kind of knowing she's watching down over us and is proud. You just try to do everything to honor her and her name. It's emotional, but exciting because you know how proud she would be of me and everybody. It was a tough pill to swallow, but also looking at the positive and knowing how proud she would be of me."

As for this year's process, the now-veteran of the draft experience has this advice for this year's class.

"I think the main thing is just not to expect anything," Bresee said. "No matter what you see or what happens, it's not what's going to happen. I don't know if there's somebody who's gotten every pick right.

"I think you've got to just trust in yourself and know what you've done is enough and the work that you've put in up to that point is enough. Wherever you end up falling in the draft, whatever pick you are, just going in and start working. Once you get there it doesn't matter where you got picked – it's competition.

"It's just like when you first go to college, you've got to get to wherever you're going to be and work hard and let it all play out for you."

Check out photos of New Orleans Saints defensive lineman Bryan Bresee in action throughout the 2023 NFL season.

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