McDonogh defensive end Roman Braglio grew up lifting hay bales on his father's Woodstock farm. Now the 6-foot-4, 240-pound senior uses that strength as one of the area's top defensive linemen.
With 16 sacks and 72 tackles, Braglio leads the No. 8 Eagles into Saturday's 96th meeting with No. 1 Gilman. Despite Sunday's 48-42 triple-overtime loss to No. 2 Calvert Hall, the Eagles have clinched a berth in the first Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference football playoffs.
Braglio also won an MIAA wrestling title last winter and was the champion in the shot put in his first season on the track team. Before switching to track, which better complemented his football workouts, he played lacrosse for the Eagles. In March he committed to play football at Maryland over an offer from West Virginia and interest from other Division I programs. Braglio has a 3.3 GPA and plans to major in business, possibly to work in his father's restaurant business.
How did you get started playing football?
My brother [Tony] played college football at Western Maryland, McDaniel now. I started playing football when I was 8 years old, so I just kind of came up from there. When my brother came back from college, he started coaching me. I guess he was my inspiration to start playing football.
Were you always a linemen?
Always a lineman. I was always the tallest kid on the team, so I never really had the chance to catch the football or score a touchdown.
What do you like most about playing on the line?
The competition. It's more like a one-on-one kind of thing. I watch a lot of players. My brother showed me a video where [former Los Angeles Rams defensive end] Deacon Jones had a quote like, "When you sack the quarterback, it's like putting the entire offense in a bag and just hitting it with a baseball bat." (Laughs.) It's kind of like that feeling. You've completely stopped their play with your play.
How have the other sports you've played helped you become a better football player?
I think wrestling is probably the one that's helped me the most, because hand skills in wrestling are unbelievable. You have to really use your hands. You've got to get rid of the fear you have of actually hitting somebody, using your body. I think wrestling definitely helped me a lot with football. Lacrosse is the same thing. It helped with footwork.
What were the highlights of the triple-overtime game against Calvert Hall?
There were a lot of highlights. It was a battle the entire game. It was such an up-and-down kind of feeling. We'd score. Then we'd make the two-point conversion and it would be like, "Yes!" Then they would score and they'd make the two-point conversion. Probably one of our best chances was after they missed a field goal, because I thought for sure they were going to make it, but we had one more chance. We didn't fulfill it, but it was great feeling when I had a sack for a 15-yard loss. I was like, "There's no way that just happened."
What role do you play as a senior in helping the team make the transition from that loss to Saturday’s game with Gilman?
I guess it’s just keeping the team together. You can’t blame anyone for mistakes or the reason why we lost. We’ve got to get together as a team. We take every practice as serious as we can get. It’s all about teamwork and sticking together. I guess everybody says that but it’s true.
You could play Calvert Hall again in the semifinals. Are you happy that there are playoffs in the A Conference this year?
Oh, yeah. I think playoffs are really exciting this year, so we don't have the three-way tie for first place anymore. It will definitely be an exciting game. The odds could go either way, but it'll definitely be a fight to the end like it was last time. No doubt.
What's special about the Gilman game?
I think how long it's been going. It's the 96th game this year. Except for last year, it's always been a battle. We have spirit week, so this whole week is dedicated toward McDonogh-Gilman. Everybody's pumped. We can have fun, but when we come down here [to the locker room], we've got to get serious, really focus on what we're doing and what we have to achieve.
Is it true when you committed to Maryland you had just met with the coaches, walked out, talked to your dad and then went back in and said, "I want to be a Terp"?
Yeah. [Maryland defensive line coach Greg] Gattuso told me to come down and watch practice to see if I like the way he coaches, if that would fit my style of playing. After the practice it was me, Coach Gattuso, Coach [Keith] Dudzinski and my father. We sat there and talked for two or three hours. I had been to a lot of schools, but that was the first time we had a talk like that and we talked as friends, so I could see a future relationship building right there. I just didn't know how to say it. I walked out and asked my father, "How do I say it?" He said, "What do you mean, how do you say it? Walk back in there and say you want to be a Terp." Coach Gattuso was walking out and he was like, "Roman, what's wrong?" I said, "Nothing, Coach. I want to be a Terp." He threw me over his shoulder and ran into Coach Edsall's office like, "We got him. We got him."
Are you a bigger fan of college football or the NFL?
Probably college football. In the NFL, it’s more showboating and in college football, it’s much more like straight-up football still.
You’ve been on a big roller coaster ride this season with McDonogh and as a Maryland and a Ravens fan. Do you ever get used to the ups and downs as a player or a fan?
As a player, definitely not. The ups and downs, they hurt. Sunday was tough loss, a really tough loss. In college football at Maryland, obviously they’re having a tough year this year. It’s a rebuilding year with a new coach. I think Coach Edsall can pull it out like he did at UConn. He won at UConn. But ups and downs are the way life is.
Do you have a player or players you look up to and try to model your game after?
I look at Jared Allen who had a lot of sacks a couple years ago. I kind of watch everybody. I watch Julius Peppers, Terrell Suggs. Every defensive end I can learn something from I watch. Dwight Freeney and how fast he is off the ball. You watch different techniques and you try to better yourself in the particular area of the scheme you’re playing.
What do you do for fun?
I go fishing a lot. Fishing is one of my great hobbies. Now it's hunting season, so I go hunting in the mornings. I work out, eat, sleep, football and go fishing. I actually do deep-sea fishing when I'm able to. There's a pond down on the farm and I go down to the river [Patapsco].
What are you planning for Thanksgiving?
I'll probably just sit down with the family. Eat a lot of food.
What's your favorite?
Deep-fried turkey. It's unbelievable. And sweet potatoes. I could eat sweet potatoes for every meal.
What are you thankful for?
My opportunities. Going to this school is an opportunity just by itself with the education I'm getting. I've always been able to go to a private school. I honestly thank my father. It was just me and him growing up. My dad was a single parent, and he actually started his business when I was born, so he was starting a business and raising me at the same time.
Do you do a lot of work on the farm?
We breed Charolais cattle. Charolais are all-white cattle, beef cattle. Right now, we have about 30 head of cattle. I’ve been working on the farm since I was strong enough to pick up a bale of hay. I was a weed puller before that.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun