Catching Up with Former Player Rep: David Bruton
We had the opportunity to interview former NFLPA Player Representative David Bruton. David played for the Denver Broncos and the Washington. We talked about his time in the NFL as a Player Rep and his career transition to physical therapy.
What is your current career?
I'm currently in the process of opening up my own physical therapy clinic called Between the Lines Physical Therapy geared towards helping the athlete through their journey, whether that's the offseason, in season, or to perform at their highest level. This is coupled with my past experience as a player at all levels, high school, college professionally. And I just graduated from the doctoral program at CU in December.
How did you become interested in physical therapy?
This is something that I've always wanted to do even when I was in high school. Physical therapy definitely helped me along the way with growing pains, with hip flexor problems, things of that nature, throughout my time in high school and every other injury. Those relationships kind of fostered that passion to become a physical therapist, to a point where I utilized our career classes to shadow physical therapists, back in Miamisburg, Ohio. Throughout my time in college and in the league, I constantly asked questions of athletic trainers or physical therapists on staff and just always had that inquisitive mind. Those relationships that were built throughout that time kind of just reinforced that I wanted to be a PT, even after I was done playing.
What if your favorite part about your job?
My favorite part of the physical therapy profession is seeing people return to their level of play, their level of activity; them being able to do something as simple as get up from the toilet without difficulty to be able to return to full participation of play after an ACL tear and everything in between. Just to help them along their journey, as well as just the relationship that you build. It's a camaraderie. It's a relationship. It's a friendship that you kind of build and you’re in it together to help them reach their goal.
What was it like transitioning from football to your current career as a physical therapist?
It was definitely something I got into right away. Even before officially announced my retirement, I jumped back into class. I was on IR in 2016, released at the end of 2016, and then jumped into school in January of 2017. I had to do all my prereqs and just kind of interest myself in academia as soon as possible. But I definitely had some difficulty with the learning, understanding how to study again, just because I've had multiple concussions and just understanding now that, your brain has to try to create new pathways in order for you to understand and learn and comprehend and retain information. I definitely had some struggles throughout my time, especially early on in, in academia, but my time and in schooling was great. I’m honestly happy that I got into it right away, because I was able to find an identity outside of football.
What advice do you have for current players who are figuring out their next career or are contemplating retirement?
Honestly, I would say find something that you that you love, that you’re passionate about. And treat it as if you're playing in the NFL still and give it 110%. I mean, I'm sure guys don't go out there and half-ass practice or half-ass games for that matter. There's no reason why you should not put 100% into whatever else you're doing. I think the big thing that helped me, especially with that identity crisis of no longer being a professional athlete and things of that nature, was being getting involved in something immediately not letting time go by, because one month goes by and then it could be six months, and then it's a year, and then it's two years and next thing you know, you're five or 10 years out and still haven't really decided what you wanted to do. Time is of the essence, and I would utilize time immediately as you have it
What was your experience like as an NFLPA Player rep and what were some of the experiences like?
I enjoyed my time as a player rep, understanding the ins and outs of investing and retirement, and utilizing my experience and the mentorship I got early on as a player and utilizing that to provide information to those younger guys about things that they weren't necessarily well versed in. I like the idea of being able to bring things up that we had concerns about and try to get those addressed. But I think the biggest thing that I enjoyed about it was just the educational piece of it, being that older head in the locker room, just being a liaison to the players that they can come up to and ask questions. I got a chance to explain things that we had gone over in PA meetings or any question that they just randomly thought of. The teacher component of it was definitely rewarding.
Do you think that you learned any skills during your time as a player rep that help you in your career today?
I think the leadership beyond just on the football field, just having some of those conversations are a lot tougher than, this is what you need to do, X's and O's wise. Those conversations are definitely a little tougher. Especially nowadays, with me opening up my own PT clinic and potentially hiring people, those are the type of conversations that I'm going to have to have with future employees, the type of conversations that we're going to have that sit down and break down; the numbers break down and investment breakdown like performance charts and things of that nature. So having those hard conversations definitely prepared me a little better for hard conversations that I'll have in the near future.
What NFLPA resources or experiences have helped you in your career journey?
The educational scholarships, I think that's a huge benefit for former NFL players. Utilizing that college fund that's available, whether you want to use it for finishing undergrad, or you want to use it for a doctoral program, that scholarship in itself is huge. It's 20 grand towards your tuition, and, school is expensive, regardless. So doesn't matter how much money you made, school is still expensive so utilizing that resource was definitely advantageous.
Outside of your career now and football, what other hobbies do you have?
Aside from hanging out with the family, I do a lot of cycling. A lot of biking for charity events in support of Children's Hospital out here in Colorado or the Trek 100 for deaths by blood diseases, so I spend a lot of time on the bike. That and reading, I do a lot of reading that kind of correlates well with my foundation of reading books. We do a lot of reading. The kids this year have a chance to win bikes with how much they read and then it goes into a drawing. So the top three things that I do are probably family time, biking, and reading.
Can you tell me a little bit more about your foundation?
Bruton’s Books is geared towards childhood literacy, specifically focused on grades K through third grade. And we chose that grade range because reading level by third grade kind of correlates with the size of prisons, and the incarceration rate out here in Colorado specifically, I'm not entirely sure how it correlates nationwide, but in Colorado if you're not reading proficiently at a third grade level in third grade they kind of base their prison size on that. I'm trying to downsize that so tax dollars can be utilized for other things as well as address accessibility problem, especially with a very diverse area in certain parts of the Denver area, where we're trying to bring books, tutors, any type of help that we could provide for those kids of different backgrounds. Whether that was African descent, or Vietnamese or Spanish speaking descent something along those lines, we just have a big melting pot here in certain areas of Denver that might be underprivileged, and we definitely want to eliminate that.