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Originally published: 2013-04-25 12:00:06
Last modified: 2013-04-25 12:01:26

Breitenstein's next stop: The NFL

by Steve Behr Sports Editor

Eric Breitenstein's football credentials are already impressive, but they can improve.
The former Watauga standout has built a body of work that a lot of kids would crave.
Being an all-state player two times while in high school? Check.
Scholarship to a Division I college?
Yep.
Set school records at that college -- Wofford -- during the course of four years?
Absolutely.
Graduated from college?
Did that in December, 2012 with a degree in environmental studies and a minor in business.
NFL career?
We'll find out soon enough.
Breitenstein, like thousands of other college football players, will find out his if he'll be in an NFL training camp after the NFL Draft. The draft starts Thursday and goes through Saturday.
If Breitenstein is to be drafted, it is likely to be on Saturday during the final four rounds. Breitenstein would obviously like to be drafted, but that's not the only way to get into the NFL. He could also sign a free-agent contract with a team, which would also be fine with him -- as long as it gets him into an NFL camp.
"At this point, I'm not banking on being drafted, but I'd like to be in a camp," said Breitenstein, who is in Spartanburg, S.C. "I would like to be one of the guys playing at the start of the season. I'd like to get drafted, but that may not fall my way."
Breitenstein, who was also a solid baseball player and wrestler in his underclassmen years at Watauga, was typical of athletes as a kid. He wanted to play in the NFL since his youth, but as he got older, he also learned that it is not so easy to get there.
"It's always a kid's dream," Breitenstein said. "When I was young, they would ask me in school what I wanted to be and my answer was to play in the NFL. As you go up the ranks, there's the realization that it is something that only a few people can get to play. It's an incredible thing. To be where I am is definitely a dream come true."
Breitenstein, who led the Southern Conference in rushing for the second straight season with 2,035 yards and scored 19 touchdowns in 2012, has drawn comparisons to former Western Carolina rusher Brad Hoover.
Hoover, a Thomasville native, spent 10 seasons with the Carolina Panthers after signing as an undrafted free agent in 2000. He played halfback at Western Carolina, but was moved to fullback with the Panthers.
Breitenstein, who stands 5-foot-10 and weighs 230 pounds, played fullback at Wofford. He's a likely fullback in the NFL. Both players participated in the Shrine Bowl after standout prep careers.
He is flattered by any comparisons to Hoover.
"We're both North Carolina boys and we both played in the Southern Conference and we both had a lot of success," Breitenstein said. "If I had a career like Hoover's, it would be incredible. I like the comparison. I don't know if he would, but I like it."
Breitenstein, who is from Valle Crucis, grew up a Carolina Panthers fan. The Panthers also hold training camp at Wofford, so he's been exposed to the franchise.
But he does not necessarily have his heart set on becoming a Panther, although that would be a great way to start his NFL career. He's open to playing for any of the 32 teams in the league.
"Being around the Panthers in Spartanburg in camp, that would be a cool fit," he said. "I kind of grew up a Carolina fan, but I honestly don't care. I just want to keep playing football. I want a shot at the next level."
Breitenstein participated in pro days at Wofford and at Appalachian State. He felt better about his workout at ASU 10 days after his workout at Wofford.
His 40-yard dash time was 4.7, which, "was OK, but nothing blazing," he said.
He also bench pressed 225 pounds, the standard weight for all NFL prospects, 22 times.
He felt good about the rest of his drills, especially when it came to catching the ball. Breitenstein, playing in Wofford's run-heavy flexbone offense, caught four passes for 18 yards. Two of those receptions, good for 10 yards, were in the Terriers' playoffs loss to eventual FCS champion North Dakota State.
"Overall I had good days," Breitenstein said. "They wanted to see if I could catch the football because we don't throw the ball at Wofford very much."
Breitenstein will be in Charleston, S.C., on Saturday because "the cell phone reception isn't so good in Valle Crucis." He's been working out at Appalachian State with other draft hopefuls to stay in shape.
He said that working out can be tedious, but the time leading into the draft has gone quickly. He's anxious to find out if he'll get a shot at the NFL.
"It's one of the things that you have no control of your destiny," Breitenstein said. "The workouts can be monotonous, but I love football and it's one of the things you have to do. I've been pushing through it and, hopefully, something will work out."