Copyright ©2011 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

MICHEL MARTIN, host: What's a professional football player to do when the NFL is trying to work through its lockout? How about teach math and social studies? That's what David Bruton of the Denver Broncos did. In April, since he didn't have official practices, he started working as a substitute teacher, working with kids from first grade through high school, including at his alma mater. And now that the school year's ended, we were able to catch up with him. He joins us from Yellow Springs, Ohio. David Bruton, thanks for joining us.

DAVID BRUTON: Thanks for having me.

MARTIN: So what's scarier, facing Randy Moss running down the side line or a room full of first graders?

BRUTON: I'm going to go with the elementary kids, for sure...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BRUTON: ...full of energy and try to play you.

MARTIN: What gave you the idea?

BRUTON: My coach from high school gave me the idea, along with a couple of my friends who are teachers in the high school. And I wasn't hesitant, by any means, to pursue that chance to teach at my alma mater.

MARTIN: What made you think - or what made them think that you'd be a good teacher?

BRUTON: I believe that it's the fact that I was a good student in high school, and I was a good student in college, and they saw me as a good role model. So they weren't afraid to ask me, and the school needed teachers.

MARTIN: What are your good qualities that you think? Are you patient? Good at explaining things?

BRUTON: I feel like I'm pretty patient, especially you have to have a lot of patience with the younger kids, as well as if I don't know the answer I've always been taught to do whatever it takes to find the answer. And I definitely had to put that into fruition with math, especially geometry.

MARTIN: Well, you know, I noticed that you majored in sociology at Notre Dame, so it makes sense that you would teach social studies. But math?

BRUTON: Math was definitely not expected, by any means. It's been forever since I've taken math. It's been my freshman year in college was the last time I took math, and that was in the summer.

MARTIN: Well, so, you have to brush up.

BRUTON: Oh, yes. I was definitely in the books. I was definitely on my iPad looking up how to figure out quadratic equations and find out angles and just a lot of stuff that I haven't done in quite some years.

MARTIN: Well, it sounds like you took it very seriously.

BRUTON: Oh, yes. I definitely think that teachers are definitely the guiding source of our youth, and there's no sense for anybody in that position to take it lightly.

MARTIN: I imagine that you are probably very popular at recess.

BRUTON: Oh, yeah.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BRUTON: Oh, yeah. I like the recess.

MARTIN: What did the kids want to do with you? Did they want to play football?

BRUTON: They wanted to play kickball.

MARTIN: They wanted to play kickball?

BRUTON: Kickball. We divided the teams up and, you know, I couldn't join a specific team, so I was all-time pitcher. There was no way I was throwing a no-hitter versus them. They were catching everything I threw.

MARTIN: They can really kick.

BRUTON: Oh, yes. Yes, they can.

MARTIN: How come they like kickball so much?

BRUTON: I don't know. I think when I was younger, I used to love to play kickball, as well. It's just a way to see how far you can boom the ball and run around the bases as fast as you can.

MARTIN: So, speaking of where we started out - which is scarier, with a room full of first graders or, you know, facing, you know, somebody like Randy Moss - at the end of the day, when you got home from work, when were you more tired, training camp or teaching elementary school?

BRUTON: Teaching. Teaching elementary. I came home, and I passed out. I didn't walk my dog. He was just sitting there laying, barking. I was just out dead.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: Because why? Because, why? Because you're on, what, all day, as opposed to just when you're called upon to play? I guess what I'm asking is that not many people have the experience that you've had. I mean, all of us have had a teacher at some point, but very few people have stepped on the other side of the desk.

BRUTON: Yeah.

MARTIN: And so what can you tell us about the experience that perhaps people don't really understand about teaching?

BRUTON: It's constantly moving, constantly keeping the students engaged. From the second graders, you've got to play games or do something to keep them active and keep their attention. And as far as high school, you go around helping them out individually, and you're constantly using your brain, especially teaching stuff that you, in my position, haven't done in six years.

MARTIN: It's a sensitive question, but I'll ask it. Based on what you know, do you think perhaps that teachers should make more money?

BRUTON: I believe that teachers should definitely be compensated more, especially, like I said, they're the guiding path for these students now. They're basically the providers for the parents when they're not around. They have the kids all day, seven hours, eight hours a day, and they have to teach them and get them ready for life, basically.

MARTIN: I understand that you're also planning to take the GREs and the LSATs. So I get the impression, then, you're planning to continue your education after your playing days are over - perhaps even while you're playing in the off-season. What are your plans, if you don't mind my asking?

BRUTON: I want to pursue, perhaps, family law or some form of social work. And now the idea of teaching has definitely crossed my mind.

MARTIN: Is there also, in part - I mean, I understand that you did this for you because you thought you'd be good at it. But I wonder, in part, would you also like to present perhaps a different image of the athlete? I mean, we haven't had so many great stories about people in your line of work these days, if you get my meaning.

BRUTON: Oh, yes. Athletes are different from the bottom to the top. It's - a lot of guys do a lot of charitable work. A lot of guys do a lot of work in classrooms or juvenile centers or, you know, in different countries with stuff. An athlete is not just a bad guy who happens to have a big checkbook. It's some guys are guys with a lot of heart and desire and stuff that they're made of that's different than a lot of people foresee.

MARTIN: So you think people have the wrong idea, the image perhaps that they have needs adjustment?

BRUTON: Oh, yes. Because you never hear much about good publicity about athletes. It's always the negative stuff that becomes nationwide news. You see a football player with - or an athlete of some sort with a DUI, but you don't necessarily hear about Champ Bailey having a camp in Denver or some form of Christmas get-together nationwide. You know, it's just how the media perceives things.

MARTIN: Well, thank you for giving us a different image. We appreciate that.

BRUTON: No problem.

MARTIN: And if the, you know, the unfortunate occurs and that there is no season, what do you think? Do you think that they'll see you back in the classroom in the fall?

BRUTON: Yes. I'm actually looking forward to maybe possibly doing it this summer, if need be. My license is for a year long, so I got a whole year to continue teaching.

MARTIN: So you actually got your license.

BRUTON: I got a year-long substitute teaching license. Yes, ma'am.

MARTIN: All right. Well, congratulations.

BRUTON: Thank you.

MARTIN: David Bruton is a safety for the Denver Broncos and a substitute teacher. You heard him. He has his license at Jane Chance Elementary School, and is it Miamisburg? How do you...

BRUTON: Yes, ma'am.

MARTIN: Miamisburg High School in Ohio. And he was nice enough to join us from Yellow Springs, Ohio. David Bruton, teacher. Mr. Bruton, thank you so much for joining - as you would say, like the kids call - do the kids call you Mr. Bruton? How do they say it? Tell me what they say.

BRUTON: Mr. Bruton.

MARTIN: Mr. Bruton.

BRUTON: It took a while to get used to.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: Mr. Bruton. Thank you so much for joining us.

BRUTON: No problem. Thanks for having me.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTIN: And that's our program for today.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.