Personal tragedy has provided Tyron Brackenridge the perspective to deal with the uncertainty of pro football.
Brackenridge remains a CFL free agent after being released in December by the Saskatchewan Roughriders. The 31-year-old believes he can still play but is also preparing for life after football, taking classes in southern California for his securities license.
“I know I still have some juice left to play,” the native of Pasadena, Calif., said in a telephone interview. “Right now, though, the ball isn’t in my court and so I’ve got to continue to set up my career after football.
“I actually started last year because I knew this transition would happen and I always wanted to put myself in a position where I could make a smooth move into my career after football.”
Many players struggle with not knowing what’s next for them on the field. They’d much rather spend the off-season funnelling all their energies into physical and mental preparations for an upcoming season and not dealing with an unsure future.
But such indecision pales in comparison to the real-life adversity Brackenridge and his wife were dealt May 11 when they lost infant daughter, Brittynn. The Brackenridges have another daughter, five-year-old Brooklynn.
“Our baby was a still birth,” Brackenridge said. “She had a large mass on her chest and it pushed her heart over to the other side.
“We tried everything we could to save her.”
Brackenridge said the tragic loss has forever changed him.
“Now, when I feel like something has gone wrong, there’s a lot worse actually going on,” he said. “It just made all of my other problems seem much smaller.
“Losing games last year (with Riders) was tough . . . but honestly I had suffered much worse.”
Brackenridge credits his wife and strong faith with helping him deal with the situation. Christine Brackenridge’s willingness to deal with their loss openly was a major benefit to her husband.
“By her having the strength to do that, it gave me strength as well,” said Brackenridge. “You’ve got to have faith, you can’t battle adversity without it . . . when you put your faith in the Lord, you know he’s going to bless your success.
“Things happen for a reason. Maybe it’s His calling for me to start my next career and just move forward.”
Brackenridge has spent nine seasons in pro football, the last five with Saskatchewan. The six-foot, 189-pound Brackenridge was twice a CFL all-star and registered 254 tackles, 10 interceptions, 10 forced fumbles with the Riders, helping them win the ’13 Grey Cup at Mosaic Stadium.
That season, Brackenridge was named the CFL’s hardest hitter in a TSN poll. But football provided Brackenridge little solace from his personal struggles last year.
A thigh injury in training camp delayed his start to the season. After returning, Brackenridge was switched from safety to linebacker before the Riders shut him down for the final three regular-season contests, raising serious questions about his future in Regina.
The answer came emphatically when Brackenridge was among 19 players cut by new Riders head coach/GM Chris Jones. After leading Edmonton to last year’s Grey Cup, Jones was hired to rebuild a Saskatchewan franchise that posted a league-worst 3-15 record.
“It’s the nature of the business,” Brackenridge said. “There comes a time when all good things come to an end.
“I totally enjoyed my time as a Rider. Being able to build so many different relationships, man, it was just an incredible time being there.”
If the ’15 season was Brackenridge’s last, it will cap a wild ride that began in Kansas City (as an undrafted free agent in ’07) and featured stops in New York (with the Jets) and Jacksonville before he landed in Regina.
“It’s crazy, time flies especially when you’re having fun,” Brackenridge said. “I’d love to play one more season just to come back and do better.
“It (2015) was a tough season not only for myself but my family and the (Riders’) organization. It was just a rough year all in all but honestly, I feel it can’t get any worse unless I allow it to.”
Brackenridge said spending time this off-season learning about the financial world has done much more than take his mind off the long wait for a football offer.
“Learning the rules of the financial game, I think, gives you an advantage because if you don’t know those rules you could be hurt financially,” he said. “I think if you can earn and learn about money that’s pretty much what the world is about.
“I’m very excited about the position I’m putting myself in . . . I’m prepared for that (life after football).”