By 2008, Dominic Breazeale's NFL dream was drawing to a slow but certain close.
Northern Colorado's senior quarterback had garnered passing interest from pro scouts— intrigued, one would imagine, by his hulking 6'7", 260-pound frame.
But no bites.
Before leaving athletics altogether, Breazeale returned one final phone call—this one from a recruiter representing an innovative program called All-American Heavyweights (AAH).
Based in Los Angeles and backed by a wealthy television executive, AAH scours the country for elite college athletes and tries to sell them on boxing.
The recruiter told Breazeale the one thing NFL teams wouldn't: He had potential.
Fast-forward four years and Breazeale—who didn't even know boxing's basic rules when he first started with AAH—is headed to the Olympics as America's top fighter in the super-heavyweight division.
Before he makes that improbable Olympic debut, Breazeale sat down with B/R to chat about his journey and share a few thoughts on what makes him tick in the ring.
1. So the recruiter comes up to you and says, “I think you’d make a good boxer.” What’s your first reaction?
I told him, “You’re crazy. There’s no way. I’ve never boxed before in my life and I don’t plan on doing it now."
As time went by, they were persistent about it and I ended up making the decision to take a chance on boxing and I’ve done pretty good so far. But my first, initial decision was definitely no.
2. Do you remember one of the first real big, bad punches you took?
Well there were a ton of them because at the time I didn’t know how to move.
But we had an athlete in here...I think he plays football at the University of West Virginia...
First day, I still haven’t been punched or hit, and he hit me with the right hand.
I definitely felt it.
The thought in my mind was, “Do I really want to do this?” And I took a step forward and I competed with him all the way until the end of the bell.
I think it was right then and there that I realized boxing was either for me or wasn’t for me.
3. You’ve been involved in two sports—first football and now boxing—that have been connected to post-career head trauma. Do you ever worry about your long term cognitive health?
You know, it’s always a definite concern. I do a ton of mental things as far as reading books, mental brain games and things like that on a general, daily basis—only because of the fact that there is a ton of head trauma in the sport.
But I think if you exercise and use the tools to keep your cognitive brain waves flowing you shouldn’t have brain damage or any kind of issue in the long run.
4. I’m putting you up there on that podium in London, gold medal around your neck. What’s going through your head?
Just...awe. I’d probably be so overwhelmed with joy and happiness. I’d be the happiest person in the world at that point. I couldn’t ask for any more.
Flag raised high, the best national anthem in the world being played and a gold medal being placed around my neck...I’d be living the dream.
Be honest with me, though. If I’m giving you a choice between an Olympic gold medal and a Super Bowl trophy, which are you taking?
I’ll take the Olympic gold medal.
5. I’ve read that you’re into reggae music. That doesn’t seem to jibe with a boxer’s attitude—it seems a little too laid back. How does reggae get you juiced for a workout?
It’s funny you say that.
When I put the music on in the gym, at first guys were like, “No way I can work out to this. We need some more up-tempo crazy type of music.”
So I put it on in my head phones.
After I became an Olympian, I had guys coming up to asking to put reggae on the radio because they think there’s something about it that’s making me better.
But I think just being relaxed even in everyday situations...helps you get the best out of everything.