Kansas City Chiefs superstar Travis Kelce has given Canadian tight end Bruno Labelle his perspective on the NFL Draft process.
Kelce played for the University of Cincinnati, the same school where Labelle completed four seasons of football. The 31-year-old All-Pro delivered guidance to the young Montreal native trying to make it in the NFL.
“Just to keep working. It’s a long process, it’s easy to become impatient and want it now. He’s been telling me keep doing what you do and you’ll be fine,” Labelle said in a videoconference.
“I’ve been playing for four years and now I’m training for the NFL, I feel like it’s a long journey, but just trust and work like I’ve been working for the past four years. I’m ready to go and take the next step, but you just have to follow and trust the process.”
Labelle has met and spoken with Kelce multiple times when he came back to the Cincinnati campus. The timing of the Chiefs bye week in 2019 allowed him to be at the Bearcats homecoming game, which has become etched in Labelle’s mind.
“He’s a cool guy, definitely big personality, and an incredible football player. Great dude all around,” Labelle said.
Along with Kelce, Cincinnati has developed a history of producing NFL tight ends since the mid-2000s. Labelle’s former teammate Josiah Deguara was picked by the Green Bay Packers in last year’s draft, Adrien Robinson was chosen by the New York Giants in 2012, and Super Bowl LII champion Brent Celek was nabbed by the Philadelphia Eagles in 2007.
Kelce was selected in the third round, 63rd overall in 2013. He won Super Bowl LIV with Patrick Mahomes and Canadian offensive lineman Laurent Duvernay-Tardif. In 2020, Kelce set the single-season NFL record for receiving yards by a tight end with 1,416 on 105 receptions in 15 games to go with 11 touchdowns.
Labelle is hoping to take the advice from Kelce and use it to earn a legitimate NFL shot, be it as a late-round choice or priority undrafted free agent signing. He’s spoken to over 10 NFL teams through the process so far, which included earning an invite to the College Gridiron Showcase, an event designed to help prospects be seen by NFL scouts.
“Either way I aim for the NFL, and I think I have a good shot to play in the NFL as a tight end or fullback — I’m optimistic about the NFL,” Labelle said.
“How teams see me in the draft, it’s been priority free agent, teams will fight to get me after the draft, maybe you slip late in the seventh round. If not definitely have a good shot to be picked up as a free agent.”
Labelle ran a 4.68 hand-timed 40-yard dash at his NFL pro day. He recorded a 4.43 shuttle, and 7.36 three-cone, while displaying his explosiveness with a 36-inch vertical, and 10-foot, two-inch broad jump, plus power repping 225 pounds 19 times on the bench press.
The six-foot-four, 247-pound tight end was primarily used as a blocker at Cincinnati but Labelle believes the 40-yard sprint can change the way personnel men look at his abilities. He registered 20 catches for 150 yards and two touchdowns in 46 games with the Bearcats.
“Just because I wasn’t used as much in that role in college, doesn’t mean I can’t do it. I’m a pretty athletic dude, so I feel like once scouts see that they’ll find that out at my pro day. Everybody wants to catch the ball, but I have no issues blocking,” Labelle said.
“I came in as a 205-pound receiver and thought I was going to catch a bunch of balls in college, but it didn’t turn out that way. I took the blocking tight end role and I loved it, honestly. That gave me great opportunities especially at the next level to be able to block.”
Houston Texans Canadian tight end Antony Auclair has used his strong abilities as a blocker to play four seasons so far in his NFL career while earning a championship ring after Tom Brady led the Tampa Bay Bucs to a 31-9 victory over Kansas City in Super Bowl LV. Labelle has kept tabs on Auclair and respects his skills and style on the field.
“He did that coming from Canada, that’s pretty impressive. He had the ideal size for the position and it worked out well for him,” Labelle said.
“In terms of the blocking aspect, I’ve seen his tape from Laval University, and we approach the blocking aspects of the game the same way being aggressive.”
With NFL aspirations in mind, Labelle left Canada for his post-secondary education, choosing to accept a full scholarship to Cincinnati over other programs. If his career brought him back north of the border, Labelle would be “happy” to play in the CFL, but the NFL is his main focus.