AMES — Back in his hoops heyday, Ernst Brun could rise up for a rousing dunk.
The 6-4, 240-pound Iowa State tight end competed with two current NBA players — Louis Williams of the Atlanta Hawks and Howard “Trey” Thompkins of the Los Angeles Clippers.
Brun’s life unfolded above the rim, until an emergency landing early in his senior season.
“I was leading the state in scoring for the first few games and my mom took me off the team because I wasn’t passing grades,” the Stone Mountain, Georgia, native said last month.
Brun’s sport — along with his grade point average — has changed.
So has his profile.
Brun stands as ISU’s first tight end with as many as four touchdown catches in a season since Al Dixon accomplished the feat in 1976.
He notched his fourth touchdown in Saturday’s 27-21 loss to fourth-ranked Kansas State and looks for more as the Cyclones (4-2, 1-2) prepare for Saturday’s 11 a.m. FX-televised Big 12 game at Oklahoma State (3-2, 1-1).
“He’s pretty much a sure catch every time you throw to him,” ISU quarterback Jared Barnett said. “He’s going to get some extra yards. You know he’s going to run over a couple people.”
Brun — who has scored in three straight games — knew nothing about Iowa State’s program when then-assistant coach Bob Elliott came calling two years ago at Mt. SAC (Calif.) Community College.
Elliott showed him film.
Brun liked what he saw.
“I chose Iowa State,” he said.
Brun, a junior, started the season in a tie for second on the depth chart, but made his mark with his first career catch, a seven-yard touchdown from Jantz in the season-opening win over Tulsa.
Brun said he wanted to celebrate but knew he couldn’t.
“It’s cliche, but its like a dream, for real,” he added.
Repeat performances prove it’s no fluke.
“Tight end’s got to be another vital component of our offense,” said Rhoads, whose team seeks a two-game win streak over the Cowboys. “If it’s just your receiving corps, people are going to find a way to stop it, just like they find a way to stop a running game. … So the tight end gives you a third position group as a receiver you have to have and we’re pleased with his progress.”
Brun’s a bit of a firebrand, too.
“He can be ornery and a challenge to coach and he can be a guy that motivates and fires up the whole team,” Rhoads said. “Very well liked by his teammates.”
Humble, as well.
Brun told a story about facing Pittsburgh Steeler Cameron Heyward in high school.
He had just switched from quarterback to tight end.
The adjustment was … an adjustment.
“Remember now, I wasn’t big,” Brun said. “(He) embarrassed me. I couldn’t block him one on one. I was like, ‘Help.’”
Tables have turned.
And a keen observer can still see signs of Brun’s hardwood-based skills.
This time, featuring the fundamentals.
“I feel like I can jump,” said Brun, whose signature dunk was a windmill alley-oop. “Also, people don’t always see, I use my body a lot if a ball’s ever coming outside of me. I use my body like I’m boxing out, like in basketball.”
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