Most NFL players relax during the offseason in an attempt to recharge, but Brandon Magee isn’t one of them.
He’s sacrificing leisure to live his dream as a multisport professional athlete.
Magee won’t report to Browns headquarters Monday for the start of the team’s voluntary offseason workout program because he’s participating in extended spring training in Fort Myers, Fla., as an outfielder in the Boston Red Sox’s minor-league system. He plans to fully commit to football once the Browns’ first minicamp starts April 29, but he’s also ready to report to Berea earlier if summoned.
Until then, he wants to continue his rare juggling act in hopes of being assigned to the Greenville Drive, a Single-A affiliate in South Carolina.
“The hardest thing about doing it is I don’t see family at all. I hardly see friends at all,” Magee said in a recent phone interview with the Beacon Journal. “I haven’t had a steady girlfriend for years due to my schedule. I’m only 23, and in the offseason, people like to go to the beach, and I can’t even do that.”
A backup inside linebacker, Magee played special teams in eight games for the Browns as a rookie last season. He suffered a season-ending torn pectoral muscle Dec. 1 in the second quarter of a 32-28 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars and later underwent surgery.
The setback, though, didn’t prevent Magee from reporting to his first tour of spring training on Feb. 19. He has been hitting in batting cages, lifting weights and running, but he isn’t allowed to throw yet. In an effort to keep his football skills sharp, he also has been using agility drills recommended by the Browns and studying film of new coach Mike Pettine’s defense.
The Red Sox drafted Magee in the 23rd round in 2012, when he starred as a linebacker at Arizona State University and played sparingly for the school’s baseball team.
He went undrafted the following year as an NFL prospect, but the Dallas Cowboys signed him to a contract that included $70,000 guaranteed. He had 16 tackles in three preseason games before a concussion forced him to miss the final two exhibitions. The Cowboys cut him, and the Browns claimed him off waivers Sept. 1, a week before the season opener.
The 5-foot-11, 225-pound Magee had doubts about whether the Browns would approve of his desire to partake in spring training. However, his concern was alleviated when he met Pettine.
“He thought it was awesome,” Magee said. “It kind of surprised me coming from an NFL coach, but he was fully supportive of what I was doing. It felt great because growing up, you have a lot of people that say don’t do this, don’t do that. To have a new coach who hardly even knows me say, ‘Congratulations on playing in the NFL and playing pro baseball, that’s a huge accomplishment,’ that was huge for me.”
Growing up in suburban Los Angeles, the seeds for Magee’s double duty were planted when he started playing T-ball at age 3. His father, Terry Magee, tirelessly trained him and his older brother, Angelo, 25, as baseball players.
“Like Venus and Serena [Williams] — how they were trained as little kids,” Brandon Magee said. “[We] would work out all day every day right after school.”
The Magee boys started their football careers at Centennial High School in Corona, Calif. Meanwhile, Brandon continued to play baseball and was drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays when he was 17.
Angelo became a wide receiver at Idaho State but transferred to Arizona State, where he was a teammate of his younger brother. Brandon also played baseball at ASU for parts of three seasons and was drafted by the Oakland Athletics as a junior in college.
In 2012, he signed with the Red Sox, the third major-league team to draft him. His goal is to follow in the footsteps of Bo Jackson, Deion Sanders and Brian Jordan, all of whom played football and baseball at the highest levels.
“He doesn’t have a life,” Terry Magee said in a phone interview. “I want kids to realize you just can’t do this by waking up and thinking you can be an athlete. No, you work hard. … Most kids at his age at the professional level, they’re dating. They’re driving fancy cars. They’re traveling. They’re just living the life. That’s not happening in his case.
“So that’s where he gets frustrated sometimes, but then he thinks about, ‘Wow, well, how many two-sport athletes are there in the world today?’ And that puts him back in check, and then he goes to the gym and works it out. If I was his age, 23, at his level, it would be real difficult for me to not have an outside life.”
The younger Magee conceded it’s tempting to focus on one sport. Still, he believes the opportunity to dabble in baseball during the NFL’s offseason is too good to pass on for now.
“If a team told me it’s time to focus on one, I would really sit down and consider that,” Magee said. “But right now, I have the blessings of both organizations to do what I like to do. It’s a dream come true. Who else can say, ‘I just went to training camp, I played in an NFL season, and right after that, I went to spring training with the World Series champs, with the Red Sox? I’m in the cage talking to David Ortiz and [Mike] Napoli, you know, legends. I’m living the dream.”
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Browns blog at http://www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook www.facebook.com/browns.abj.