What was it like growing up in Springfield, Mass?
Brace: Growing up in Springfield it was basically–you know how basketball is big in Springfield–so mainly all my athleticism, I think, (I) was helped by playing basketball basically my whole life. I played on a lot of AAU teams, Boys and Girls clubs, PAL leagues, so that helped me out a lot–especially my feet–being a big guy on the defensive line.
Were you a rugged inside power forward, or were you one of those guys who think he’s a point guard stuck in a big man’s body?
Brace: I was a big guy, I think, stuck in a point guard's body, but they put me at center most of the time, or forward.
Were you a big sports fan growing up?
Brace: I was mainly into basketball, the Celtics here-and-there, some Patriots, but I didn’t play football, so I didn’t pay much attention to it until I got to high school when I moved up to Worcester. When I was a freshman I was a big Indiana Pacers fan because Travis Best is from Springfield too.
Who were some of your favorite teams?
Brace: There was a Semi-Pro team called the Springfield Slam, that’s what my AAU team’s name was–Junior Slam. So I was a Slam fan, and a Pacers fan until Travis left, then I became a Trailblazers fan.
Any other favorite players growing up besides Travis?
Brace: I would probably say Rasheed Wallace. Of course everybody would say Michael Jordan, but also Shaq because of his personality.
The Red Sox, Celtics and Patriots have all won championships recently. Did you follow any of those teams, and if so, which did you enjoy most?
Brace: I would say the first time the Patriots won the Super Bowl with (Tom) Brady, around the time (Drew) Bledsoe got hurt, that was when I first started really paying attention to the Patriots. Watching the whole season...me and my high school football team would get together and go to each other’s houses, get some wings, some sodas, some chips and chill and watch the Pats play.
Did you root for Boston College at all growing up…did you follow them at all?
Brace: No, I didn’t follow them at all to tell you the truth.
Is it true that growing up at some point you couldn’t play Pop Warner football because you were too big?
Brace: Yeah, I was too big for the other kids my age. Even in some of the Boys and Girls club leagues I had to play in the age group higher.
When was the first time you were actually allowed to put on the pads and play organized football?
Brace: My freshman year in high school.
Was that something that you were looking forward to doing?
Brace: Yeah, it definitely was. I basically modeled my high-school career after my father. I played football, basketball and track.
Can you talk about being an artist as a kid?
Brace: If you ask a lot of people from Springfield who knew me as a young kid, I told them when I was younger that I didn’t want to play football, I just wanted to sit around and draw. I still watch cartoons during the day because I like art. I was in AP art when I was in high school. It’s still something I do from time-to-time right now.
Are you more of a painter or a drawer?
I heard you can cook a little bit…how did you pick that up?
Brace: Oh man, the way that first got out was B.J. (Raji) told reporters that I made donuts for the team one time. I made them a couple of times last summer. I learned from a lady that lived in a building near me in Springfield, Mass. when I went home one time. She taught me how to do that. I also learned cooking tips from my grandparents, when I was growing up I used to watch my grandmother.
What’s your favorite dish from grandma?
Brace: Fried chicken, easily.
Recently you learned how to bake donuts and that was a big hit with your teammates, but you didn’t even get to eat one?
Brace: Na, man. I made them during the summer for some friends. I was like, “I’m making some donuts, you want to come by?” They were like, “You’re making donuts? We’ll be right over.” As soon as they were over I let the donuts sit around and I couldn’t even get one.
How many did B.J. Raji have?
Brace: I think he had one, maybe two. He didn’t have as many as I hoped I was going to get. Last time I wasn’t even able to get one of my donuts when I made them. (laughs)
What are the different flavors?
Brace: Straight up plain, jelly filled.
Is that your specialty?
Brace: It just happened to be the one I learned.
You know when you get drafted and the players hear about this they aren’t going to ask you to pick up the bill, they’re going to ask you to make the donuts as a rookie…
Brace: It’s whatever…if they buy the materials–and I know they have the money–it’s not a problem…I’ll do it.
You mentioned the Dallas Cowboys as a team that showed a lot of interest in you at the Senior Bowl. What other teams have shown interest in you, either at the Senior Bowl or the NFL Scouting Combine?
Brace: At the Combine I talked to the Steelers, the Bucs and the Saints. I actually have two formal visits set up already for the Bucs and the Saints. They are definitely showing good interest in me right now, they are the first two teams to offer me visits so far.
So you’re going to fly out to Tampa and New Orleans?
When are those visits scheduled for?
Brace: I want to say April 2, and April 6.
Have most of the teams talked about playing in the 3-4 defense?
Brace: I want to say pretty much every team I talked to. The Indianapolis Colts are the only team that have openly told me that they see me as playing the three, or the one. It’s just getting down in weight, and being prepared.
Do you think that because that is a rare skill and not too many players in this draft can fill that need, it helps your draft stock?
Brace: I definitely think it does because it shows that I can be a versatile type. I can lose weight and play on the outside or I can stay where I’m at and play nose (tackle).
B.J. Raji is a potential top 10 pick…you’re a day one guy who could go in the first round. Did you guys ever talk about both potentially being first round picks?
Brace: We didn’t really try to think about it before this whole process. We didn’t really talk about it. When we get together it’s just like us chilln’. We just talk about football, like an adjustment here, or diet tips or whatever. We just sit around and chill and talk about our personal lives, not really too much the season.
What was it like playing without B.J. Raji during your junior season? I read where Coach Jagodzinski said he believed it helped make you a better football player…
Brace: I think it did, but also I think what helped me become a better football player was the coaching I had from my position coach. He helped me out a lot with technique. B.J. helped me, and coach helped me.
Was it great to be re-united for your final season?
Brace: It was really good. We came in at the same time together and being able to play our last season together was good. We know we did our best, and we enjoyed every moment and every play.
What are you planning on doing this week at your Pro Day?
Brace: I don’t plan on doing everything. I know I’m going to do my forty over again.
You weren’t happy with your 32 bench reps or your 40-time at the Combine…is that right?
Brace: No, I wasn’t because when I got back from the Senior Bowl, I was basically in Combine-mode and had a few weeks to work on it, but we didn’t do like everyday-type things. I knew if I trained like some of the other guys I could have been right up there. I didn’t really do as much bench work, we did more on-the-field stuff.
So no bench?
Brace: No, I’m not even going to bother with it. People say I’m fine with 32, so I’m going to stay right there I don’t need to hurt my pec or tire out my arms.
B.J. said he’s only doing positional drills…I thought maybe would challenge him to a bench-off since he got you by one?
Brace: No, but I would have that.
Who would win?
Brace: He has an advantage, he has some short arms...stubby.
You dropped some weight in the training process from the 342 you were at the end of the season. What’s your weight now?
Brace: I weighed in at the Combine at about 330, but right now I’m about 320
Is that your preferred playing weight for next season?
Brace: Yeah, that’s what I’m trying to do.
I read where you spoke about learning to eat better during the training process. How difficult was that? No butter, whites not yolks, steamed over fried...
Brace: It really hasn’t been that hard. If somebody like a nutritionist lays out for me, “Eat this, or eat that,” I’ll eat it because I understand that they know what to eat, and what not to eat. So it’s not really that bad.
So what does that mean for the donut shop? Is it closed for business?
Brace: Closed for business for me, I can’t eat any.
Time for three-and-out...who is your favorite Superhero?
Brace: I don’t really have just one, I have multiple…Superman, the Hulk, Juggernaut and Wolverine.
Krispy Kream or Dunkin' Donuts?
Brace: Krispy Kream, hands down.
Biggie or 2-Pac?
Photo Credit: College Press Box (Boston College)
Thursday, March 12, 2009
What was it like growing up in Springfield, Mass?