Senior co-captain Ernst Brun has already established himself as one of Iowa State’s most potent offensive weapons on the gridiron. The tight end took care of that a year ago when he caught 26 passes for 330 yards and six touchdowns, the second-best single-season touchdown total by a tight end in ISU history.
An honorable mention All-Big 12 pick in 2012, Brun is another perfect example of an outstanding athlete who, despite limited experience at tight end, has thrived in that position.
Brun was a quarterback for his high school team up until his senior season and didn’t start playing tight end until he got to junior college. His athleticism helped him excel in other sports, including basketball. He was pretty good at it, too.
“It was a tough decision for me to choose between basketball and football,” Brun said. “I picked football, but I still think about basketball all the time, because it was my first love. My parents and everybody who knows me knows it was my first love.”
Brun’s basketball skills are actually well documented. He participated for the Team Georgia AAU program, one of the best in the nation, and led his high school team in scoring. His teammates on the AAU circuit were NBA players Louis Williams (Atlanta Hawks), Trey Thompkins (Los Angeles Clippers) and Al-Farouq Aminu (New Orleans Hornets). He held his own against some of the best players in the nation.
“I always felt I was a shooter and rebounder and I knew the game in and out,” Brun said. “My father taught me since I was a little kid. I played on the top teams nationally and I had a chance to go to France to play on a USA team, but I didn’t do that. I just loved to play the game and it’s something I am still very passionate about.”
Brun’s father was one of Aminu’s first coaches when he arrived from Nigeria. He learned a lot from his dad and plenty from playing on such a star-studded team.
“It was fun and I am still friends with a lot of those guys,” Brun said. “We had a lot of publicity coming out, because we were the No. 2 team in the nation. We played a lot of games and went to nationals. It has been great seeing those guys do so well in college and the pros.”
In basketball, Brun was a leaper who could score and rebound. He is currently translating those skills over to football where his hand-eye coordination is off the charts. If the ball is thrown his way, Brun will most likely catch it. His tight ends coach with the Cyclones Bill Bleil noted through the first week of fall camp that Brun had dropped only one pass.
Brun’s successful cross-over from basketball player to tight end shouldn’t be a surprise. Many former basketball standouts have made a seamless transition to tight end in the NFL like Tony Gonzalez (Atlanta Falcons), Antonio Gates (San Diego Chargers) and Jimmy Graham (New Orleans Saints). All three became NFL All-Pro tight ends after successful college basketball careers.
Gonzalez played hoops at California, Gates starred at Kent State and Graham was a member of the Miami basketball team. Brun explained the correlation between the two.
“A lot of times on the field I am boxing out people and getting in position, just like in basketball,” Brun said. “The ball could come and I could steal it. It is very similar to jumping ball skills and catching a basketball. It has helped a lot.”