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Judo gives Reagan competitive edge

OT Bruno Reagan uses his judo experience to help him on the football field.

EARTH CITY, Mo. -- Bruno Reagan had graduated from Vanderbilt with a degree in communication studies, had just opened his own judo club, and knew exactly what the rest of his life was going to look like. It was going to be easy. He was done with football. He was 23 years old and had his whole life planned and set ahead of him.

He was miserable.

“Life was too easy, I hated it. I wasn’t myself,” said Reagan. “I had to quit football to learn that I’m most uncomfortable when I’m comfortable.”

Football didn’t actually enter Reagan’s life until later than most players. He had been doing judo since he was 3 and didn’t start playing football until his sophomore year of high school. When he got to Vanderbilt, he was a good athlete but still felt like he had a long way to go as a football player and thought if he could start a year or two there he’d be happy.

He started all four years.

Reagan (purple) throws an opponent.

Reagan says his judo training gives him a huge leg up in football. Judo is an upper-body grappling sport, it’s all grips. The way he uses his hands goes perfectly with being an offensive lineman. “It’s all quick. I’m in there punching, I have great control,” Reagan said. “Other players hear about the judo stuff, but when they see it and see how I use my hands they’re like ‘Oh, this guy might be real.’”

Mentally he says judo helps him even more. It’s given him a calmness that he says is his biggest advantage. “I’ve been competing at a high level since I was a kid," Reagan said. "In the SEC I was walking into Auburn, Notre Dame and I can’t hear my quarterback. That really bothers some people, but it doesn’t affect me.”

Sitting at home, looking at the end of his football career, Reagan just couldn’t let it go. He had something he needed to prove to himself and it was killing him not to be doing it. “I didn’t want to go through life thinking ‘what if?’ I wanted to compete at the highest level at what I was best at.”

That’s not to say that Reagan’s judo career is done. Not by a long shot. In fact, he has his sights set on the Olympics. 

Reagan (red) takes another opponent down.

“Football eventually ends for everyone. That's the sad truth,” Reagan said. “But judo will always be there for me. The Olympics are coming to LA in 2028 and you can compete at judo to a pretty late age. There are a lot of successful heavyweights in their 30s, so that can come later. There's only a small window to try football and compete at this level.”

But for now, here he is with the St. Louis BattleHawks. Living in a hotel, working long, hard hours, fighting every day for his job. And he couldn’t be happier. “All the stuff that sucks, the stuff guys normally hate, I love it," Reagan said. "I can’t explain why, I just love it.”

Bruno Reagan is finally uncomfortable again, and that should make opposing defensive linemen very uncomfortable as well.