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Path to the Draft

July 22, 2019

The night of the 1999 NFL Draft ushered in the beginning of a new era of professional football in Northeast Ohio. It was also the night during which Dane Brugler ’08 discovered a passion he would one day turn into a successful career.

Five years after Tim Couch’s name echoed through the rafters of Madison Square Garden, Brugler began his undergraduate career at Mount Union. The Warren, Ohio native chose to attend Mount Union upon learning about the sport management major, in which he would ultimately earn his degree.

“I knew I really wanted to work in sports, and I wanted football evaluation to be a possibility for my career. I felt Mount could be a great place for that,” he said. “I was lucky to grow up in a household where I had parents who pushed me to set goals and follow my dreams. Mount helped take me on a path to fulfill these dreams and build a career.”

Building a Network

Making comprehensive draft guides in his residence hall was something Brugler initially thought was an “overzealous hobby.” Yet this self-described naïve 18-year-old knew that he needed to utilize his time at Mount Union to learn from faculty and make as many connections as possible.

One of those connections was with former Mount Union Sports Information Director Michael De Matteis, who taught a course Brugler took in his sophomore year. After being impressed with the work he put forth, De Matteis convinced Brugler to work for him in sports information — though if you ask Brugler, there was not much convincing that needed to be done.

De Matteis assigned Brugler to work with the football team, which is a sought-after assignment for any intern at Mount. However, Brugler had the ability to make more industry connections than he ever thought possible with scouts flocking to Alliance to see the burgeoning talent of Pierre Garcón ’08.

As Brugler was getting hands-on experience working in sports information, he collaborated with fellow undergraduate interns Brian SanFilippo ’06 and Mike Dellosa ’07. Both men went on to work with the Frisco Roughriders, a minor league baseball team in Frisco, Texas. Brugler’s relationships with them landed him an internship prior to his senior year, and an entry-level job upon graduation.

Enjoying the Journey

Following his time with the Roughriders, Brugler worked for the Final Four and the Super Bowl, which provided him with incredible experiences he reflects on with thoughtful hindsight.

“Maybe in the moment, I didn’t appreciate my experiences enough because I was so focused on what I thought was the end goal of scouting,” he said. “Though I’m lucky enough to be able to do it today, I’m glad that I was able to have a more realistic picture of what the true road to success is and enjoy the journey along the way.”

Part of the enjoyment Brugler finds in his career is the interaction with the public. His frequently-updated Twitter account (@dpbrugler) boasts more than 89,000 loyal followers and The Athletic, which hired him as an NFL Draft analyst in August, has growing subscriber numbers in the hundreds of thousands. He joined the rising outlet following successful stints as an analyst for NFL Draft Scout and CBS Sports, which provided him with learning opportunities for communicating with the masses.

“Everyone is an armchair quarterback and evaluator. I have an opportunity to discuss different topics with people, and I really enjoy the interaction,” he said.

In order to be the expert that he is on NFL prospects, Brugler watches anywhere from 30-50 hours of film each week and attends numerous events like the Senior Bowl and various pro days. He is also a regular at the NFL Combine and has appeared on several podcasts to provide his analysis.

Hall of Fame Influences

Gil Brandt, vice president of player personnel for the Dallas Cowboys for 28 years and 2018 Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee, is someone Brugler cites as an influence in his career. On paper, this relationship makes perfect sense, with Brandt being the Mr. Miyagi to Brugler’s Karate Kid in terms of player analysis and scouting. Brandt is recognized by many as one of the foremost pioneers of the NFL Draft and scouting technology.

Yet, there was another interesting role model in Brugler’s life who also has a hall of fame pedigree: Pro Football Hall of Fame quaterback Roger Staubach, then chair of the Super Bowl Committee for Dallas.

One of Brugler’s most career-affirming moments came when he worked for the Super Bowl, where he first met Staubach, though the focus was not on the pigskin. Brugler often followed the Cowboys legend to events and handled the media; one of these events found Staubach throwing out the first pitch on Opening Day in 2010 for the Texas Rangers. This led to a moment that any sports fan would remember for years to come.

“We’re on the field during the pregame. It’s a packed stadium with Opening Day and [Staubach] said ‘Man, I need to get my arm warmed up…’ After he looks around, he sees me and says, ‘Hey Dane, grab a glove,’” Brugler recalls.

“We start playing catch, and I realize I’m standing on the field, five minutes before first pitch on Opening Day, playing catch with Roger Staubach, it kind of blew my mind. It’s something I’ll never forget and something you don’t ever dream could happen.”

A Lifelong Purple Raider

Though Brugler is blessed to have incredible opportunities in his area, living in Texas does not afford him the chance to visit Mount Union as much as he would like. However, he manages to stay connected both with his sports information colleagues and in being a brother of the Sigma Nu fraternity. He reinforces that fraternity life was an experience that helped shape him into who he is today and that he still has many close relationships from that experience. He also tries to get his sports information contemporaries together and have dinner with De Matteis, SanFilippo, Dellosa, and Brent Stehlik ’99 whenever he comes back to Ohio.

His experience at Mount Union gave Brugler the skills and relationships he needed to become one of the rising stars in the world of sports media. He continues to work hard to become the best scout and writer he can be, but is grateful for the opportunities that have led him to where he is today.

Much like the fans of the Tim Couch-led 1999 Cleveland Browns, many college graduates seek immediate success upon walking across the commencement stage, Brugler included. However, the best piece of advice he felt he could pass along to the Purple Raiders of past, present, and future is the need for patience.

“Many view success as a straight line once you set your goals and work hard to achieve them, but it doesn’t always work out,” he said. “Anything worthwhile is going to take time to build. If we found immediate success, we would not be able to build the character necessary for true success.”

One would expect nothing less coming from a talent evaluator making his name known well beyond the gridiron.