METAIRIE, La. — New Orleans Saints rookie defensive tackle Bryan Bresee and his family sat on their couch in Maryland on the first night of the NFL draft last month.
Almost everyone in the room wore a pink sweatshirt with the words “Ella Strong.”
Across the country from California, the former Notre Dame defensive end Isaiah Foskey and his childhood friend Gunnar Rask they waited for the first round with friends and family of Foskey, some of whom had come from New York in anticipation of his selection in the draft.
It could be a frustrating 24 hours for both players.
Bresee was first drafted when the Saints took him with the 29th pick in the first round. But while Foskey was waiting to hear his name called, Bresee was doing interviews with the press, explaining the importance of sweatshirts, which he wore in honor of his late sister, Ella – who. died of brain cancer last September at 15 years.
“I’ve been through a lot in the last year,” he said on the night of the military service. “Illness, the death of my younger brother, many things that make you grow up fast. Many things that grow quickly, many young people do not grow through them and they should not. That is what has made me mature.”
His baby sister was one of his biggest supporters and inspiration NFL dreamand last year, “Ella Strong” became the rallying cry of the Bresee family, echoing throughout the college football world.
The wave of support came not only from Clemson, where Bresee played, but also from other schools.
“All the support we’ve gotten all around football, all the college teams that have reached out at this point, it’s just been great support from everybody,” Bresee said. “[My family] they are very grateful.”
Foskey, on the other hand, was hoping for a shot on Day 1, and he especially wanted to be in New Orleans with a team he was comfortable with after a good run before the draft.
But when that didn’t happen, Foskey and Rask parted ways. Rask promised to return for Day 2 despite the health of his grandfather, who used to watch his football games when the two played together at De La Salle High School in Concord, California, but when the second round began, Rask was not there. . His grandfather, who wanted to hold him until he saw that Foskey was being drafted, took a turn for the worse. Rask was by his side at the hospital and told Foskey not to come.
When Foskey got the call from the Saints that they would select her with the 40th pick, the cameras saw the New Orleans draft room, which had a large sign reading “Ella Strong.”
#EllaStrong ❤️ @Bryan_Bresee pic.twitter.com/UqNAL5QJn9
— New Orleans Saints (@Saints) April 29, 2023
Bresee had known about the Saints’ plan to put up the sign, but seeing it showed him that his sister’s memory would carry over into the next phase of his career. The moment was meant to be Foskey’s, but it was a highlight both men will cherish for the rest of their lives.
“He sent me a picture to put up the night before the fight,” Bresee said. “It was really, really, really good. All my family saw it and all my neighbors, everybody. It was a great time.”
The draft room shooting probably never crossed Foskey’s mind. Foskey was all business for the first part of the night, but when that time passed, he immediately left his planned party to go to the hospital to be with Rask and his grandmother in his final hours.
“Seeing the screen of all the people being drafted in front of me, I was thinking about getting drafted, at that point,” Foskey recalled at Saints rookie minicamp last week. “But as soon as I was drafted, and that celebration, my thoughts turned to Gunnar and his grandfather. And that’s when I just drove straight there.
“It just felt like the right thing to do.” I didn’t expect anyone to know.”
My grandfather was put on life support this morning. I have left my long life, brother @IFoskey I know I can’t go to him #NFLDraft party. Less than 30 minutes after being selected as 40 by a @Oyera Isaiah informed me that he was on his way to cross. I love you & Congrats! #Holy pic.twitter.com/GqhReTFKIX
– Gunnar Rask (@g_rask) April 29, 2023
Although Bresee’s and Foskey’s stories revealed their nature, they did not surprise any of the White House staff who investigated them. Maturity and leadership were qualities the Saints were looking for.
Foskey, who was eager meet and work together Holy protection end Cameron Jordanhe was already impressed after former NFL player Justin Tuck, who also attended Notre Dame, connected them on a text.
“These Notre Dame guys, we’ve had some good ones,” Jordan said. “Manti Te’o was a great guy. So I know he’s going to be an amazing presence in the locker room right now.”
While the Saints may have had the chance to bring the division back to normal in the past, that is not the case this season after a major change in players and coaches in the room. Both rookies will lean toward playing a bigger role this year, and they seem eager to have “all the newness that comes with it.”
“I can’t wait for everyone to be in the locker room, because I’m a normal person. I try to get into the relationship, the whole locker room,” Foskey said. “I feel like that’s what the Saints try to put in, and that’s what I want to be a part of.”