Rozner: New Bear Braverman a study in perseverance

Updated 5/7/2016 9:08 PM
  • New Bears receiver Daniel Braverman has plenty of motivation to prove he belongs in the NFL, while living a life that is all about his faith, his father and his football.

    New Bears receiver Daniel Braverman has plenty of motivation to prove he belongs in the NFL, while living a life that is all about his faith, his father and his football. Courtesy of Daniel Braverman

Daniel Braverman didn't have everything going against him, like so many players drafted last week.

But for most of his life the score has been so tilted in the wrong direction that calling him an "underdog" doesn't properly credit Braverman for what he has overcome to become a Bears draft selection.

You can start with the obvious, that he's a 5-foot-10 receiver from a MAC school who didn't have many offers to play college football.

At 177 pounds and playing for Western Michigan, Braverman wasn't even thought of enough to get a combine invitation.

So he worked out on his own that day, as he has so many days during his life.

At 22, Braverman is not lonely, but he knows what it's like to feel alone. He was 5 years old when his mother walked out on his family, leaving a young child and his father to figure things out on their own.

"My dad is special. He's my best friend," Braverman said via phone from Florida. "I like making him proud. I mean, he's proud no matter what, but he didn't expect an NFL chance for me, so it's been a whirlwind for him these last few weeks.

"He enjoys watching me play football and I enjoy making him happy."

Playing more after high school looked like a good bet until an injury left Braverman with few options.

"I was starting to get some attention, but in spring ball I sprained my ankle and almost every team I thought was interested walked away and I never heard from them again," Braverman said. "Western Michigan stayed with me.

"It came down to Utah State and Western. I figured it was a MAC school, so I knew the offense would be up-tempo and I knew they throw a lot, so I would get a chance to showcase my talent."

He got that and then some in 2015 when Braverman caught 108 passes for 1,367 yards and 13 touchdowns, after 86 catches and 997 yards the previous season. He was gaining traction and there was talk of Braverman going in the third or fourth round after huge games against Michigan State and Ohio State.

"A couple years ago, I didn't think I'd be drafted," Braverman said. "Then you start to hear things. I didn't care. I just wanted a chance to play. I just wanted someone to give me a look and I knew what I could prove if I got a chance."

But he had to wait until the third day of the draft when the Bears took him in the seventh round, getting what some scouts believe is a steal fit for today's NFL offense.

Think Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola, a slot receiver with a quick cut, great hands and the ability to read the defense. If that sounds like someone Jay Cutler could fall in love with, Braverman might just be that guy.

He averaged more yards per route from the slot than any receiver drafted this year, according to Pro Football Focus.

"I'm confident in myself and confident in coaches seeing talent," Braverman said. "But I don't worry about things I can't control. I embrace the things I can control.

"That's worked for me in football and in my life in general. I know I will bring my peak performance on game day and I know I will bring my work ethic every day.

"I can control that. It's the same thing in life. If I can't help change something, there's no reason to worry about it. I'll work my tail off and do the right things and we'll see what happens."

Braverman's Twitter account reads, "God first." His faith has played a major role in his life, as has the insistence that he bounce back from whatever setback he's faced, be it an ACL tear a few years ago or finding out he wasn't invited to the NFL Combine this year.

"It was a shock. I know I belonged there with those guys," Braverman said. "I called my agent, Drew Rosenhaus, and he said, 'I can't believe this happened.'

"I was in shock for 30 seconds and I moved on. I called one of my mentors and he said, 'That's good. That's better for us. Everything happens for a reason and it's been happening your whole life, so why would it change now?'

"Who knows, maybe that's what led me to the Bears."

Braverman has been a gym rat since he was little, pouring his pain and frustration into his craft, working at getting better every day, working to prove everyone wrong.

"It's a motivating factor, for sure," Braverman said. "It kind of drives me. Maybe there's days I'm a little tired or I've been at the stadium for six hours, and I keep going because I expect to prove people wrong."

And maybe deep down there's still that matter of being abandoned by his mother, the woman who left without saying goodbye, without so much as an explanation or a note.

One day he had the perfect childhood in Southern Florida. He was a happy kid who did all the things happy kids do. The next day he was just another child wondering what he had done wrong to cause his mother's disappearance.

Sports became his salvation.

"I was just a little kid. How do you make sense of anything?" Braverman said. "Sports were an outlet to deal with my problems. I still do that. If I'm ever feeling something, I just use sports to get me through it."

For a very long time, Daniel Braverman's life has been about his faith, his father and his football. Since the day he came home from school and she was gone, he has not heard a single word from her, so it's been many years since Mother's Day was something other than an ugly reminder.

"It's definitely a weird day for me. I usually just go work out," he said. "I've been through so many Mother's Days that it just kind of is what it is.

"As you get older, you grasp what Mother's Day is really all about and why it matters. What can I do about it? I just kind of go with it."

Sadly, for this very tough young man, Mother's Day is just another day on the calendar.

So while everyone else goes out for brunch and opens presents, sharing emotional cards and the most personal of memories and hugs, Braverman will be where he always is -- alone at the gym, working to prove everyone wrong.

• Listen to Barry Rozner from 9 a.m. to noon Sundays on the Score's "Hit and Run" show at WSCR 670-AM.

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