TE Richie Brockel (Otto Greule Jr./Getty)
TE Richie Brockel signed with the Chargers as an undrafted free agent because San Diego has a winning tradition, “especially at tight end.” Now, the Boise State product is ready to learn from the best -- and compete with the best -- as he fights an uphill battle in search of a roster spot.
Richie Brockel established himself as a versatile playmaker during his four years at Boise State. He saw time at tight end and fullback, finishing his Broncos career with 32 catches for 293 yards and eight touchdowns.
Those numbers would have been better, but he missed some time with an assortment of injuries, including the final four games of his senior season with a sprained foot.
“It was rough coming back from that injury, especially being so close to training for my Pro Day,” Brockel said. “I had to keep a good attitude and maintain a good work ethic and do the things I knew I could do given my limitations, whether it was catching balls but not being able to run or just keeping focused.”
In the end, it did work out for Brockel. Although he was not drafted, he was highly sought after following the NFL Draft.
Some may question his decision to come to San Diego, where he is buried on the depth chart behind Antonio Gates, Kris Wilson and post-draft pickup Randy McMichael. However, Brockel was not intimidated by the talent in place in San Diego; instead, he was attracted to it.
“I'm coming to a place where I can learn from the best and experience a winning system,” he said. “It makes you highly motivated and drives you to become the best. The chance to work with the best every day and be able to have that opportunity is what made me come to the Chargers.”
Over the last couple months of OTAs and minicamps, Brockel has gotten a glimpse of what it takes to be successful. It's been equal parts inspiring and overwhelming.
“It's kind of rough because you're at the bottom of the totem pole,” he said. “You're coming into a new system and you have to learn a lot of things and meet a lot of new people, learn new coaching styles, etc. There is a lot thrown at you, but you have to develop and get used to the system.”
It helps that Brockel has a familiar face nearby. He played with WR Legedu Naanee at Boise State in 2006, so Naanee can assist Brockel with the acclimation process.
Naanee often credited the program at Boise State for preparing him for the NFL, a notion seconded by Brockel.
“The [Boise State] coaches have a lot of football knowledge,” Brockel said. “They do a really good job of teaching us the fundamentals of things. I've noticed a big carryover from a lot of stuff I learned on special teams at Boise State to what the coaches are showing us in San Diego technique-wise. A lot of things are worded differently but they are basically talking about a lot of the same things.”
It's appropriate that Brockel mentions special teams, as that's where he'll have to make his living if he sticks in San Diego. Nonetheless, he knows he must improve every aspect of his game if he hopes to be more than another training-camp body.
“I definitely need to improve on my overall feel for the game and just understanding different things in coverage and running routes, because I didn't do too much route running in college,” he said. “That's a relatively newer thing for me, and so is reading defenses while I'm running routes. Those are my major points of emphasis.”
Can Brockel beat the odds and stick in San Diego? Discuss in the message boards.