PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Brandon Copeland enjoyed a storied career along the defensive line at the University of Pennsylvania.
The Sykesville, Maryland native won three Ivy League titles with the Quakers and also earned first-team All-Ivy honors three times.
He graduated in 2013 and since then he has been battling to make his mark in the NFL. The first couple of years were tough. He got a couple of opportunities with the Ravens and Titans, spending time on the practice squad with both teams, but he never got the chance to play on Sundays.
Then in 2015, the Detroit Lions provided an opportunity and Copeland took full advantage of it. He played all 16 games last season for the Lions, doing a lot of work on special teams while also serving as a back-up at defensive end and linebacker.
“It was awesome,” Copeland tells KYW Newsradio. “I had to pinch myself in the first few weeks and wake up from the dream of it all. After a few years of scraping, scratching and clawing to get on to the 53-man roster and actually play on Sundays, I had to pinch myself and wake up and understand that now it’s time to not just be happy and thankful to be here, but now make an impact on the team and on the field every single week.”
Listen to the entire interview with Penn product Brandon Copeland:
As special as last year was, Copeland knows that you have to prove yourself constantly in the NFL.
“I try to make sure that I never get content or satisfied,” Copeland says. “Because I’ve always felt like as soon as you get comfortable in the NFL, that’s when you get cut.”
While Copeland worked at two positions on defense with the Lions last year, it sounds like the plan in 2016 is to have him spend his time exclusively at defensive end.
“I’m excited about that,” Copeland says. “That’s what I’ve been playing my entire life, played it at Penn, played it in high school and rec league and everything like that. For me, it’s great to ‘come home’ and use the skills and techniques that I’ve been learning my entire life. The instincts that I’ve honed in on my entire life to try to make a living and earn a job.”
While the NFL is the focus these days, Copeland hasn’t forgotten about his college days.
“Penn was an awesome, amazing experience for me,” Copeland says.
He says his time as a Quaker helped him get to where he is today.
“It really taught me how to be a leader,” Copeland says. “One, it taught me the type of preparation it takes to actually win and be good and push yourself from good to great at something, year in and year out, day in and day out. But then it also taught me, helped hone in on my leadership skills and made me more comfortable with being myself and being maybe different in terms of my approach to things.”
Copeland and the Lions report to training camp on July 28th.