Justin Broiles’ ‘chop wood, carry water’ motto to follow him throughout NFL journey

Defensive back Justin Broiles speaks to Medill students after wrapping up minicamp practice May 6 at Halas Hall in Lake Forest. (Zain Bando/MEDILL)
Defensive back Justin Broiles speaks to Medill students after wrapping up minicamp practice May 6 at Halas Hall in Lake Forest. (Zain Bando/MEDILL)

By Zain Bando

Medill Reports

Justin Broiles is far from finished when it comes to taking the next step toward making an NFL roster.

Although the six-year Oklahoma defensive back was waved by the Bears May 8, Broiles remains content with a focused mindset that everything else will fall into place with the right attitude, he said.

“When things aren’t going my way (on the field), you got two options,” Broiles said May 6. “You can attack, or you’re going to let your fears run wild. And I’m a guy (who likes) to doubt my fears. I didn’t have the best start at Oklahoma. I didn’t have the best career I wanted, but I still kept going at it.”

Broiles was one of 12 defensive backs who practiced May 5 and 6  at Halas Hall in Lake Forest but is now free to get picked up by any other NFL team ahead of training camp.

With years of injuries, redshirts and inconsistent starting roles behind him, the 5-foot-10, 191-pound Broiles said he is excited to get a chance to compete, regardless of where he ends up.

Broiles did not hesitate when he got the phone call from the Bears after the draft.

“They were the first ones to hit me (up) and believe in me, so there was no need to sit back and wait,” Broiles said.

Broiles has also gauged interest from other clubs, including the Chargers, Packers and Bengals.

Broiles stayed in his home state of Oklahoma and committed to the Sooners in March 2016, but it came with a cost. Despite his eventual honors accolades as an African American studies major, Broiles redshirted during his 2017 freshman season and saw a limited role in the starting rotation.

The former four-star recruit kept striving to earn his chance to don red and white as one of the faces of Oklahoma’s secondary.

After starting five games and appearing in 11 in 2018, Broiles waited to impress then-head coach Lincoln Riley with his on-field presence.

In arguably his best game during his five-year career, Broiles’ lone 2019 start came in the College Football Playoff semifinal, posting a career-high 11 tackles. It was the first of three bowl games he would find himself in, building the groundwork for future success.

The Sooners ultimately were on the wrong end of a 63-28 defeat against the eventual national champion LSU Tigers.

Despite the hardships, Broiles said daily practicing with the same teammates was more beneficial than a postseason start.

“You’re going against the best players in practice every day,” Broiles said. “You look at them. Look at everybody who got drafted last year, the year before. (Oklahoma) is like a trend (of picks) in the league. So, like, it’s not even so much the bowl games. Those help in terms of learning and experiencing those moments and those crowds in that environment and understanding how to prepare thoroughly for those moments. Really, more so than anything, practice got me more prepared.”

Justin Melo of The Draft Network tweeted about Broiles in February and how he has the potential to make an NFL roster despite his size and missing significant playing time in college.

Melo quotes an unnamed NFL scout who described Broiles as “an easy study” and “warrior,” giving the ex-Sooner a tenaciousness and tenacity that is hard to teach at the professional level.

Kevin Fishbain of The Athletic said Broiles’ special teams’ ability could see other teams potentially take further looks at him as the offseason unfolds.

Nonetheless, Broiles lives by a motto he hopes will carry him through the early stages of his NFL career regardless of what comes next.

“Chop wood, carry water,” Broiles said.

Zain Bando is a sports media graduate student at Medill. You can follow him on Twitter (@zainbando99) and add him on LinkedIn  here.