Brandon Denson Show Notes

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The Game Plan T1D Podcast: Episode 1 - Brandon Denson



Sam Benger

Published on Jul 22, 2018



Join us for the first episode of the Game Plan T1D Podcast. Host Sam Benger sits down with Brandon Denson, Michigan State linebacker, Canadian Football League player, American Ninja Warrior contestant, current JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation) employee, Type One Diabetic, and all around awesome dude! Listen in to hear Brandon's inspiring story and his tips for managing his Type One Diabetes.




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the best analogy I can give for you Sam

and you you could probably relate to

this it's kind of like you get that uh

that stretch play from running back that

tackle doesn't quite get the edge and

you gotta cut it back a lot sooner than

you thought you're gonna have to it's

just one of those things with the

diabetes I just I looked at it as if it

was my ball and I just took it around

with it welcome to game plan to und


I'm your host - Sam bender this podcast

is focused on disproving the idea that

type 1 diabetes is a road block by

showcasing success stories from athletes

and performers with t1d for more

information on this topic please visit

our website WWE ante windy calm or

follow us on social media at gameplan


this episode of the gameplan t1d podcast

features t1d all-star brandon Denson

brandon grew up playing many sports

before settling on football Brandon went

on to play at Michigan State where his

standout career propelled him to the

professional level Brandon had a short

stint with the Carolina Panthers before

moving on to the CFL in addition to

football Brandon was a competitor on the

hit TV show American Ninja Warrior

outside of athletics Brandon currently

works as an outreach manager for the New

England chapter of JDRF the Juvenile

Diabetes Research Foundation listening

at the end of the episode as Brandon

discusses JDRF's mission and

opportunities to get involved during his

podcast Brandon and I discussed football

utilizing support networks engaging the

younger t1d community and bouncing back

from university for such a successful

athlete I was most impressed by

Brandon's positivity and how humble he

was please enjoy my conversation with

Brandon Denson welcome to the game plan

to und podcast this is your host Sam

bender we're sitting down for our first

ever episode with Brandon Denson Brandon

welcome to the show

thanks for having me Sam I appreciate it

before we get into the question of who

is Brandon dense and we want to ask you

if you could imagine you had a million

square foot billboard that all diabetics

their families could see what was your

message be to that community and why

that's a pretty tough question that's

why we're here we're trying to answer

the tough questions um I probably

honestly would say or the Billboard

would say who's gonna stop me and I say

that because it can be relatable the t1d

type one diabetes are can be relatable

to anything that you're going through or

in life but I think it hits home with me

because in everybody living with t1d

because we have these barriers that

sometimes get in our way and it's just

another another saying that I think this

makes perfect sense it's who's gonna

stop me so it sounds like for you that's

almost like a personal credo that you

kind of live by let's talk a little bit

about you growing up you grew up in

Michigan correct correct when was it

that you kind of started to develop this

passion for athletics and when was it

that you kind of adopted that mindset of

you know nothing's gonna get in my way

because you know we'll talk about your

track record later on but you've got

some serious accomplishments on the

athletic front how did those things sort

of come to pass when did you start to

realize these passions um I think Sports

is just it's very universal I think

growing up seeing my father played

softball and always being around like

his buddies and at the games and you

know thought playing catch with him and

his friends and my older brother which

is who's five years older than me I'm

just kind of being around I will say

essentially competition so bent being

younger I always had to kind of prove

myself to either kind of fit in or gain

the respect like oh man this kid can

really play you know so I really got

involved with organized sports with

baseball first that was kind of like my

true love a lot of people don't know

that but baseball just came very natural

to me and I end up playing basketball

football and also ran track but for some

reason I just love football

early on I think watching Barry Sanders

it just it took foot BOTS a whole nother

level because the things that he was

able to do

was just so amazing that was like one of

my favorite players growing up to watch

him you know being living close to

Detroit and having the opportunity to

actually go see him playing a person you

know with my father and with my brother

and my family I think was just uh it was

just so amazing so I think I really

think from the first time me seeing him

play like live at the Silverdome the

Pontiac Silverdome which is no longer up

I think that really just that that that

gave me that extra Drive like I wanted

to be like Barry that's awesome I

totally get that I was a running back

myself and Barry did some crazy things

that I unfortunately wasn't able to see

live but no he's an absolute stud but

tell me so you're a defensive VI yeah so

tell me you couldn't necessarily model

your game after Barry was there a guy on

the defensive side of the ball that you

kind of tried to aspire to be like um

well I didn't make the transition to uh

to playing defense officially until my

junior year of college so that was my

first time playing defense so up until

that point you know I I was always on

the offensive side of the ball but when

I started playing defense some of the

people that I looked at were Ray Lewis

obviously from playing linebacker he was

he was probably pretty much one of one

of the main people that I kind of tried

to look at just because his role on the

field his intensity the way he he took

every play so serious like he never took

a playoff and I think that was

throughout the whole course of his

career that's what I got from anytime

you see him play even when I play

offense you still knew who related who

Ray Lewis was because he was just a

Smash Mouth football player and he

always brought this high energy and high

intensity and I think whatever side of

the ball you are even if you're a coach

I mean he will he'll get you amped up

and if he doesn't then you don't need to

be playing football no it's funny I

actually there was a certain Ray Lewis

video with like Eric Thomas talking over

it I think it's called like beast or

something you guys can try to find it on

YouTube but I would listen to that

for every game and it would get me so

jacked up I think there was one play

where he legitimately tore his tricep

off of his arm bone yes and you know

he's telling his teammates he's like I

heard a pop and they're like you're good

right he's like yeah no I'm good and the

trainer is like no you are not good like

you just ripped your muscle in half and

he's like no I gotta get back in there

and play with my guys so he is an

absolute beast but no that's interesting

I did not know that you transitioned to

defense during college because I mean

you know being an offensive guy pretty

much my whole career I played two ways

in high school but you know at the

college level trying to run down on even

kickoff and cover a guy this is pretty

pretty challenging so tell me a little

bit about your experience on the

offensive side and what that transition

looked like um so I actually had the

opportunity to walk on at Michigan State

University in 2005 I was a preferred

walk-on and I played wide receiver my

true freshman year under the coach named

John L Smith after that after he was let


Mark Dantonio the head coach now came in

and I made a transition to running back

and when I made the transition at

running back we were stacked we had man

so much talent Javon ringer Ju cotry AJ

Jameson David Spears Andre Buford Ashton

Leggett Andre Anderson these are all

scholarship guys and you know that I

mean let's be honest collegiate sports

it's a competition you know you know the

best eleven on the field and you know I

not that I didn't have hope or faith or

believed in myself to play the position

I just know I want to get on the field

quicker and I was willing to do anything

that it took to get on the field other

than just running down on kickoff and

being on kick return and punt return and

punt you know so I wanted to add another

role to my position by actually playing

a position on the field so Marc Dantonio

asked me one day at practice he said hey

come here at Denson he said what you

think about playing deep

I said coach I just want to play other

than special teams he told me to come

out on Thursday in the white jersey

offense was in green we weren't white he

said I'm a lot about safety and I

remember like it was yesterday I was uh

he was coaching me up and then he threw

me in there and I got a pig my first my

first time getting in there at safety

and I did exactly what he told what he

told me to do say you did you have to

stay deep and I seen this dig and I've

been on it and I probably said that but

I picked it you know to me so it was

like it was kind of cool to see like I

got coached up that fast and you know I

used my athletic ability and then also

what my coaches were telling me and you

know I was able to make a play I'm kind

of embarrassed to tell you what happened

after that I know it was a pick six but

I didn't tuck the ball I thought I was

Deion Sanders and let's just say I got

kicked out of practice but it was the

end of practice so it was okay but yeah

my coach was pretty upset because I

played running back and we you know at

Michigan State ball security is

everything defense we get the ball off

of us we keep the ball so you know it

but it was it was cool so it was all fun

and jokes and he gave me a hug out there

after practice and you know just kind of

kind of told me his gave me his to sing

song you know with what he thought about


running in the endzone like I was the as

football player situations where you get

the ball and it's one of those

situations where you didn't think you

were gonna get the ball and you're just

like oh my god start doing things that

you don't usually do but so you talked a

little bit about the competition within

the team fighting for a role and anyone

who's played a sport understands that

there's there's competition against

other team for them there's also

competition within the team to kind of

establish yourself at the same time that

you're fighting that battle there's a

diagnosis that happens so walk me

through you know what that process was

like and how you were able to balance

that with what at the d1 level is

essentially a full-time job being a

football player at Michigan State

correct so for me I was diagnosed when I

was 17 years old and I was going into my

senior year of high school and you know

as as any senior that

doesn't have everything lined up far as

what University they're going to or you

know whatever they're gonna do after

they graduate you know I was kind of the

type one diabetes being diagnosed with

type 1 diabetes kind of added you know

more on to my plate I was coming off of

a knee surgery I was trying to get ready

for my senior year because I knew it was

a it was gonna be a big year for me and

you know I had to go out there perform

so I had to be mentally and physically

ready I just remember telling my mother

that I was urinating a lot and you know

kind of from there that's when

everything really started and she told

me if you continue to let her know the

next day and I did after practice I

think I used the bathroom like 15 times

within 20 minutes and it was kind of

crazy so I ended up calling her and she

she told me drive home I drove home she

took me she took me to my primary care

physician after that they checked my

urine for ketones I had no clue what

ketones meant that at that time the

doctor told her that she needed to take

me to the the erm ER immediately so she

drove me to the University of Michigan

unfortunately the University of Michigan

so she took me there they already had a

room ready for me when I got there and

soon as I got there to end up giving me

a shot and that's kind of really hot

everything really really unfolded from

from that moment on and I remember after

the nurse gave me a shot which I hate

shots at that time I hated shots my mom

ended up stepping out in the hallway

with the doctor and the doctor ended up

telling my mother that I had type 1

diabetes so when she came into the room

I didn't know I didn't know anything

about it and I just see my mom bawling

crying and I didn't know I didn't know

what to do so I just hopped off the bed

I just gave her a big hug and I said mom

I'm gonna be ok I said we're gonna be ok

and you know I made a promise or and I'm

a man of my word so like I'm living true

to that and you know every day you know

it is tough I'd be lying if I said

dealing with this disease isn't tough

but you know it could always be worse

than what it is I think one of the

biggest distinctions for at least when

it comes to diagnosis is when

happens so for me my personal background

as I was diagnosed when I was five so I

grew up with type 1 diabetes and all of

the constraints that come with that from

a dietary standpoint from you know never

going anywhere without fast-acting

glucose all of those kind of

prerequisite lifestyle things but you

know when this is happening to you at an

older age as you're about to go into

college when you've had habits and you

know certain parts of your lifestyle

have become kind of more solidified how

how are you able to you know take that

diagnosis information and then pretty

much adjust your entire you know a large

portion of your life to fit the demands

of this disease it's uh the best analogy

I can give for you Sam and you you could

probably relate to this it's kind of

like you get that uh that stretch play

from running back that tackle doesn't

quite get the edge and you got to cut it

back a lot sooner than you thought

you're gonna have to it's just one of

those things with the diabetes I just I

looked at it as if it was my ball and I

just took it around with it I knew I was

getting ready to go to college even

though my mom I love her to death it was

something that I had to kind of man up

on my own because she wasn't gonna be

there with me so with me knowing that I

knew I just took for responsibility

because at the end of the day it wasn't

gonna be my mother giving me my shot it

wasn't gonna be my mother checking my

blood sugar it wasn't gonna be my mother

waking me up to to make sure I'm okay

before class these were things that I

knew that I was gonna have to do so I

just had to step up and you know at the

end of the day it wasn't gonna affect

her I mean it could if I wasn't taking

care of myself but ultimately it was

gonna I was I was gonna be the one that

was affected if I wasn't taking care of


it wasn't gonna if I didn't take care of

her I wasn't gonna be able to play

football I wasn't gonna be able to hang

out with my friends I was gonna be able

to do those things that I enjoy doing so

I always felt that long as I long as I'm

proactively doing the things necessary

to take care of my diabetes and I'll be

fine and you know I'm here with you

talking to you now and you know nothing

has changed from

when I was first diagnosed to where I'm

at now you know it's still it's still a

heavy burden but I know that I'm the one

that's in control and ultimately I have

to take care of my diabetes would you

have handled the diagnosis news as well

if you weren't an athlete do you think I

think so I definitely think so because

I've always been the type of person

regardless of what it is being told no

or you can't do this or this and that

I've always been one to maybe kind of go

against the grain a little bit I it's

almost like I want you to say that I

can't do something so when I was

diagnosed with type 1 diabetes I know

you can't play football and it's like

why can't I oh you can't eat that why

Cannot you know that I mean it's one of

those things like like why cannot so I

mean when you look at fool yeah at the

end of the day we all need to eat

certain things in moderation you know

but the fact that I have great devices

to deliver me insulin I have great

devices to look at my blood sugar on a

consistent basis throughout the course

of the day without having to check if I

don't need to that you know though those

things kind of play a huge role but no I

don't think it would have changed

anything I think you know I'm I'm a very

optimistic person and I'm very positive

and at the end of the day I feel like I

can conquer anything how was the support

network you had at Michigan State I know

for me the trainers and our coaches and

even my teammates were some of the

frontline most important people in terms

of managing my diabetes and as much as

they would you know give me a hard time

for giving myself an injection in the

locker room and being like oh man this

guy's doing some steroids in it at

halftime but tell me what that support

network is like because I know you know

in a diabetics life and really anyone

with a chronic illness there's so many

different role players from doctors to

family to friends to teammates you know

what was how were you able to rely on

those people to kind of help you out um

I definitely started start off with my

with my suitemates from my dorm freshman

year well one of them was like a brother

to me and I didn't have a roommate so he

spent a majority of his time

my room like it was his room for

whatever reason but it's fine my buddy

may will you make Elroy my support

system was really good and I think I

would say from a high school standpoint

when I was first diagnosed my trainers

were on top everything as much as they

could be you know it was new to me it

was new to them so you know there was a

lot of precautions taken but I would say

at the collegiate level I mean I we just

we had great trainers Jeff Monroe Sally

no Golu like those ladies and gentlemen

eight I mean even even the RGA s like

they just they were they were on top of

it if there was an issue or I was having

an issue I could let them know and and

we could get it taken care of I do

remember one time I think I probably had

a at the time I didn't know I was low

but when I look back on it now I

realized I was and I was very irritated

during a winter morning workout at like

4:30 in the morning and I like I

literally just depleted myself of all

the guys I literally had in my body and

I just could not I could I couldn't I

just couldn't go anymore I mean I drink

I just drink a whole bottle of Gatorade

and you know I'm not telling you

anything you don't know the winter

workouts are are pretty intense I can

honestly say for us they work but you

know it's just one of those things like

I didn't feel defeated because I knew I

was giving it my all at the end of the

day but like the support system was

amazing from my friends to my teammates

to my trainers I mean to my family back

at home I mean my mom you know she

checks on me almost every other day if

not every day you know so the support

has never been a lack of support and

also you know going to see the

endocrinologist at Sparrow which is in

East Lansing and then also University of

Michigan when I used to come back home I

would see any kind endocrinologist there

so you know as always it's all the

support system has always been very

very very good do you think and I know

this is speaking from you know my

personal experience but do you think

there is a process of having to try to

open up and to let those people help you

I think for me when I came in as a

freshman I was like you know this is

something that I take care of on my own

like you guys don't understand it

you know if I'm higher low during a game

I know how to fix it just let me handle


and then you know going into my senior

year I remember our first game after we

were in st. Louis after the game I were

walking to the bus and I almost passed

out and it really took me you know a

quarter of the way into my senior year I

think to fully open up and say all right

I need to leverage this network of

people they know what they're doing they

want to help me but I think for whatever

reason maybe it's you know we grow up

and we feel like we have to be

independent I think you in control of

the entire process of our diabetes

treatment that we kind of pushed these

people out without meaning to do so so

what did you feel like you kind of went

through that process I would I would

definitely say in the very beginning

when I was first diagnosed to high

school I kind of was I don't want to use

the word guard it but I was I kind of

like you said I kind of just felt like

it was just me that I needed to deal

with and not anybody else you know and I

think that's just maybe how we raised it

could be a toughness thing or it could

be like I got this or you know confident

with it but one thing I will say a lot

of my friends just act like oh what's

that's for what's that for like I'm

taking a shower or I'm drawing up

drawing up the insulin from from the

vial or I'm checking my blood sugar or

I'm popping some gummies for a snack to

bring my blood sugar up but what I

realized is they weren't accident cuz

they were trying to be nosy they were

accident because they weren't they cared

and they wanted to help so as I set as

the 17 year old Brandon in the Brandon

now obviously there's a big difference

and I think from me making that

transition from high school to college I

realize like I'm not trying to hide

anything but at the end of the day the

people that are closest to me they need

to know what's going on just in case

something was to happen you know so

early stages yes I will say when I was


diagnose it was kinda like I I kind of

want to just deal with it on my own but

I realized my network of people that

were asking what was what they just they

they just genuinely cared and want to

make sure that I was okay so switching

gears a little bit

sports enables us and empowers us with

kind of a unique platform to reach out

to people and to try to be an

inspiration to you know all people

especially those with type 1 diabetes

like us we were talking a little bit

before the show about a connection you

had with a fellow type 1 diabetic tell

us a little bit about that story and

what that looked like

definitely hey Bob god bless his family

as him and his family and their it

they're just they're just awesome his

mom is Jackie Bob ney Bob he just

graduated from Michigan State University

with the nursing degree just that he

ended up writing me a letter I believe

my sophomore year at Michigan State and

it actually made me realize what type of

platform that I was on to actually speak

about my diabetes and to be honest if he

never reached out to me I can't say that

you would be listening to this now for

the simple fact he got me involved with

JDRF and it's probably been one of the

best things that I think I've ever been

able to do and be a part of and that the

letter I mean it just speaks for itself

the fact that he was 13 at the time he

was a type 1 diabetic he had never

missed a game at Spartan Stadium like

he's a die-hard fan and you know he

wrote something in the in the letter

very specific that I saved a touchdown

on kickoff and you know and like it's

like that whole letters just stuck in my

head and at the bottom and said please

be Ohio State next week and I'm just

like I mean this is coming from a 13

year old kid that has diabetes and you

just understand you understand

everything he's just younger than you

but like he gets it he understands and

you know for him to reach out and have

the courage to write me the letter I

think that shows a lot about him as a


after I got the chance to meet him and

he had came to a Michigan State High

School camp summer camp and man I just

got to see him excel and I'm like wow

like he has the same thing I have and

he's out there like doing this thing and

I remember I just got out of class and I

want to hurry up and get over there

before it before lunch for they broke

for lunch and soon as I literally walk

to the outside to our outside facility

he had just got a pic and took it to the

crib and I was just like this is crazy

he had his insulin pump on and

everything and it was just like it was

just amazing feeling to see people doing

the same thing that you do and they're

so passionate about it you know so like

he he definitely holds a special part of

my heart his family holds a special part

of my heart that was like my family I

was like my home away from home they

always took care of me took care of me

made sure I was good I had everything if

I ever needed any diabetic supplies or

if I ever needed help with anything like

they were always there like they're

there the true definition of a true

family true family that's awesome I

think there's so much you know power

juice energy whatever you want to call

it in the diabetic community and it's

when it's only when you make these

connections and these links in these

relationships that you can kind of like

unleash some of that power I got to give

a shout out to I had a similar

relationship with a kid Jack Harbin he's

a young man from Pennsylvania who you

know his family reached out to me after

my sophomore year and we started

corresponding and eventually he was able

to come down to one of our games against

one of our big rivals and it's funny

these younger people with t1d they reach

out to you and you know they talk about

how you're such an inspiration but I

think and I think you could probably

attest to this too you know it's I think

we end up getting so much more out of

those those connections and those

correspondence with those younger people

because you know they're doing these big

things but that's such a younger age and

it's it's just such an inspiration to

see these young people just absolutely

thriving it make it just awesome it

makes you feel it makes you feel good

deep down because it's like I've been

able to

accomplishes accomplish whatever I

wanted to accomplish but then you see

younger people accomplishing the same

thing at such a high level as well and

you you understand where they're where

their head is like I can't be stopped

and you love saying that ya know it's I

think that's one of the more special

parts about being a type 1 diabetic and

being part of this community obviously

there's so much toughness and challenges

that come with this disease but at the

same time you're part of a really unique

tight-knit community let's switch gears

again you were on American Ninja Warrior

you are a ninja in addition to your

football exploits and Brandon as we

touched on made it to the CFL but we'll

dive into that a little bit later I want

to hear about your ninja days so the the

ninja days I think you're not human if

you don't like American Ninja Warrior

because if you don't I really don't know

what to say to you but I think growing

up once an American Ninja Warrior and

seeing where it's at now it's like night

and day literally and when I used to run

the course they used to run through the

day and now they start at a desk and run

to dawn it was a cool unique experience

if you can ever if you can never get the

opportunity to either submit a tape and

get on the show I'd suggest you do it I

believe they're doing like T ninja

warriors now so you can be under 18

which is kind of cool because I think it

gives the teenagers a platform to

actually go out there and compete and

have some fun like the adults but you

know having have an opportunity to run

and my human circle in Indianapolis was

was absolutely amazing it was about a

hundred and fifty participants out there

other than 150 I would probably say I

was probably probably one of the

heaviest ones that was out there along

with a couple other big fellas but that

was pretty much it so like being able to

kind of showcase athleticism ability

strength quickness all that type of


I think the guitar Bertoni from American

Ninja Warrior was very very huge and I

I'm very thankful for having average

do that but I think my main reason for

doing it is I wanted to show people with

that no matter what size you are no

matter what color you are no matter what

disease you have no matter what

obstacles you face we all face different

obstacles in life and obviously anybody

that seen the course or knows about

American Ninja Warrior

none of the obstacles are the same and

they change them every year and they

change them every course and that's kind

of like having diabetes nothing nothing

is ever the same

one day my blood sugar could be

completely perfect the next day it could

be it could be low the next day it could

be high or it could be high for a week

it could be low for a week you know so

it's just about facing adversity in

different obstacles and different

challenges and you know I I'm glad I had

the opportunity to do it and I kind of

would like to do it again or maybe put a

team on D team together and get out

there and hit the course yeah I was

doing some research before the show and

I'm looking up Brandon dents in American

Ninja Warrior and there's this picture

of you on the starting mat and you've

got Dexcom g5 and you're looking like

part bionic what was the feedback like

from some of the other competitors were

they asking about hey what are those

like her are those like giving you

special that those conversations like a

lot of them obviously I mean I didn't

take my shirt off inside she was about

to step up onto the stage to actually

run the course but after a lot of people

didn't know I was a diabetic so you know

it's one of those things you know then

you don't know like if you just walked

up to me you didn't know anything about

me you wouldn't know that I had diabetes

and it's not like I'm trying to hide it

or anything like that but my main reason

for taking off they're taking off my

shirt was to show people one that have

diabetes they know but their parents and

kids you can do whatever it is that you

want to do in life you know no no

setbacks no barriers nothing and you

know if you feel like you can do

something then at the end of the day you

owe it to yourself to try it you know

what I mean

think sometimes we get so so guarded and

sell ourselves short because we we think

that we can't do this or we don't know

how to do this I think that the best way

to figure out how to do something or see

if you know how to do it or don't know

how to do it is just to do it you know

and I think that you know with that you

can do anything so continuing on that

that trend of doing anything what was

the process like for you as you were

coming to the end of your college

playing days and thinking about trying

to pursue football at the next level a

goal of mine was really to just play

collegiate football but I think after my

first time actually playing in a game

running down on kickoff and making a

tackle in my head I said this is easy I

said like I think I want to try to do

something with this and I remember like

it was yesterday running down on kickoff

we were playing Illinois at Michigan

State and in Spartan Stadium and I made

a solo tackle one thing about kick-off

for me my head is on a swivel and I'm

and I'm zooming down I'm soon like I'm

assuming that I'm trying to be the first

one down every single time and it's just

uh it was pretty pretty pretty pretty

cool to be you know just thrown thrown

in there and and getting after it but I

think after I made that first tackle I

was like I think I think I want to try

to try to pursue this and go to them go

to the next level I never really had

dreams on being drafted even after

playing at Michigan State I didn't think

that I was gonna get drafted but I knew

at the very least that I will probably

get a shot maybe with an NFL team as a

free agent or you know get brought in to

Ricky minicamp and things like that

and you know a little adversity kicked

in you know I was uh I let our team and

special teams heck was my junior or

senior year I was a third leading

tackler on our team my senior year and I

didn't get a I didn't get a shot and you

know I didn't get a shot I didn't get a

shot to try out for any teams any NFL


you know I kind of took that as as I

have to do something to bounce back you

know I knew I was a walk-on at Michigan

State so I knew things weren't gonna be

given to me but it's all I needed was a

chance and the opportunity just like I

had at Michigan State to showcase my

talent my ability and my skills and you

know I I didn't I didn't get the call my

agent then get a call for me to go on

the minicamp

or you know any rookie mini camps or any

workouts or anything like that but I

stay I stay persistent in training you

know I never stopped training and then I

ended up coming back home and I trained

one time one of my mentors Jeffrey


that's like he's like a father figure to

me his family

Rosaria Johnson his boys Jace D'Angelo

and Julian like those are like my little

brothers and you know with open arms we

just got we got back in the lab and we

got after and you know shortly after

that probably I would say six to eight

months later I had a different agent and

I had to work out with a Canadian

football team and I worked out for them

on a Friday they had a contract for him

you ready for me that Monday and I kind

of just it was once again I just took

the ball around with it was an

opportunity for me to kind of get

experience get exposure and also learn

about the professional realm as it's

very different from the collegiate realm

of football ya know I I wanted to ask

you too about we have a shared

experience and trying to prep for a pro

day and I remember very vividly as this

was only you know for three or four

months ago for me the process of

everything has to be so incredibly

dialed in over those two to three months

leading out so your diet your sleep

you're not you know drinking anything

that's gonna put your performance at

risk everything or even thinking about

your mentality has to be so positive and

then you know as type 1 diabetics we

have this additional dimension of we

need to be so on top of our blood sugar

because you got Scouts looking at you

you know you're about to do your vert

your bench your 40

if you're not at the ideal level that's

going to impact your performance which

is going to reflect you know your

ability in those Scouts eyes so talk

about like as you were prepping you

talked about getting back in the lab and

you know your prep for going to the CFL

workout but talk about when you were

trying to dial in that performance and

how you were able to to manage the your

diabetes during that time I think like

you said Sam it's such a crucial time

you don't have any time for anything

other than what you're chasing after and

that's trying to make it to the next

level so your eating is it's probably

the cleanest has ever been your sleep

you're probably focused on getting a

true eight hours or plus more of sleep

breakfast it you know it consists of the

same thing every day you know the

consistency of everything is is the same

because you want you want that that end

goal result whether it's the forty or

you trying to get one more on the bench

or you trying to squeak by a perfect

shuttle or a short shuttle or a long

shadow or you know you're trying to bust

a half inch more on your vertical like

all these things matter I mean down from

every piece of food that you put in your

mouth to so everything that you drink to

stand on top of your stretching to

making sure you're getting the proper

treatments they needed like I mean you

have to your body ISM is a machine

essentially and it has to be fine to at

perfect time to peak in front of these

individuals whether like I said whether

she running a fast 40 maybe they know

you can do you can bench 30 but they

want to see you in a for a mid four five

five you know what I mean all these

things they matter you know and not the

discredit or taking anything from

anybody else you know sometimes I think

there's a lot more over weighing that

you have to have this because I think

the measurables

sometimes can be a little ridiculous you

know like in regards to what you can do

in a test versus what you actually do on

the field but

you know at the end of the day we don't

have the final say-so in those decisions

so it's kind of like we got to show up

and show out you know and you know

always looked at it I don't mind being

an underdog I feel like I've been an

underdog a majority of my life and it's


I think it keeps me hungry and it keeps

me humble and it keeps me focused you

know so you you you really I know for me

I have made some huge changes for those

three months that I was training I

trained that out in Chicago EFT with the

liest cares great new great facility he

trains collegiate athletes professional

athletes high school athletes he also

has tutoring set up for his high school

athletes just just an amazing place to

Train it but you know at the end of the

day you know things didn't work out for

whatever reason it had nothing to do

with how I was trained or anything like

that it's just at the end of the day

maybe I didn't display the right

performance for them but you know I knew

I was still good enough to play at the

next level given opportunity I still

remember it was spinach brown rice black

beans ground turkey and mixed veggies

for lunch and dinner out of this little

plastic tray for three months and I

still to this day cannot eat that stuff

I would say go ahead say my my since I

was training in Chicago my weakness was

gears popcorn and Giordano's pizza and

if you haven't had a Chicago style pizza

Giordano's is I could probably only eat

one piece out of that pizza because that

pizza was amazing did you like pig out

after the pro day just be like I need

like one day I went crazy back to back

to the CFL so you got that came in

performed well on the workout signed the

contract and then you were you were off

and running tell me about playing in the

CFL CFL is amazing a lot of people ask

me like Oh why'd you plant a CFL not the

NFL or the NFL didn't really give me

that many chances I had the opportunity

to play in Carolina but it was very


it was at the same time Luke Kuechly was

drafted so it probably wasn't the best

situation for me to be there Beeson was

still there Anderson was there so they

were pretty stacked that linebacker but

you know I took the opportunity after

leaving the Hamilton tiger-cats I

actually be released and they ended up

granting it I don't know you know if it

was the best decision but at the end of

the day you know I had an opportunity to

play up and you know that was something

that I kind of set my sights on after I

made that first tackle versus Illinois

side Michigan State I said you know I

owe it to myself because if I don't take

the opportunity I don't know what will

come from it if I if I don't take it I

won't know if I take it at least I at

least I tried you know but planning the

CFL to me personally I like it better

than the american-style football as they

say down south being in Canada

down south are you from down south but

the the game is is really the fans are

into it starts I'm sorry is 12 people in

the field so you got one extra guy the

field is 10 yards longer the end zones

are 20 yards and the field is about 15

yards wider so in its three downs so you

have to be prepared for a lot of running

and if you're a defensive guy oh boy

this is just be just be ready to go

that's all I can say because the field

is so much bigger it's just like a huge

playground for the office but it's it's

so fun the game it's so different it's

football but it's so it's so it's so

fast-paced and just so much fun

I mean I I wish someone at NFL guys had

an opportunity to actually play I know I

do know a ton of guys that maybe were

least are cut from NFL teams and they

went to the CFL you know they they like

it as well you know it's a it's um it's

not as many teams there nine teams and

you know it's not as many as the NFL

which has 32 and then obviously it's a

million multi-million dollar industry

not a multi-billion dollar industry like

the NFL but it's a it's a fun way to do

something that you love and get paid for

awesome Utley and just go out there have

fun each and every day

how are your coaches compared to you

know your college days in terms of

responding to your diabetes that were

they completely understanding because

now you're at the professional level it

is a business at the end of the day how

are they in terms of assessing you know

where you were with your diabetes I

would say um I had a tight-knit with the

trainer's and I would tell this to

anybody if you have diabetes and you

play sports at a high level you should

have a strong relationship obviously

with all your coaches if you can but

especially your trainers because I think

those are the people those are gonna be

your caretakers to take care of you if

things are not good or things are great

so I think having that relationship with

your trainers and your coaches is very

very good I never really dealt with any

issues with my diabetes as he related to

having to deal with like my coaches or

anything like that but they were always

very understanding if I did need to do

something or you know I remember I think

my work here in camp I end up having

like a really high blood sugar and you

know obviously when you have a high

blood sugar sometimes you tend to

urinate a lot more and then obviously

with the hydration being on top of

hydration that we were in camp so I was

urinating a lot and you know I had to

let him know like you know this is this

is someone I'm gonna be in and out you

know I mean in and out of film and now

in and out you know my blood sugar was

high and I had to use the bathroom a lot

but uh you know I mean other than that I

never really had any issues my coaches

knew I'm missing a state they knew in

the CFL they knew and with the Panthers

they knew as well so you know it was

just you know just is this always good

to be on the up-and-up because anything

you know anything could happen it's just

one of those things I want to be as

honest as I can so if something does

happen to me but you know if if if I

can't be honest about something I really

have no control over and I didn't

actually be diagnosed with this and it's

kind of like if they hold it against me

then that might not be the best place

for me to be in the first place

so we've talked a little bit you know

myself included about instances where

we've really struggled with diabetes you

know for me I can think back to you know

growing up I

few times where I got solo I was you

know having seizures but really I think

one of my and I'll call it like an

important failure for me a learning

experience was this past season I had

never really had an issue playing

football with diabetes until my senior

year of college where after the game

passed out essentially walking to the

bus but at the same time I think that

was probably my most important failure

because it's set up in my mind you know

I just realized all of a sudden I need

to be more on top of this that I'm you

know current currently am I need to

improve my system of management did you

feel like you have or have had a failure

that sets you up to improve your system

of management going forward have you do

you have like a most important failure

that you can think back to it's funny

that you mentioned something about your

senior year because looking back on it

for us under Mark Dantonio the era of

Mark Dantonio at Michigan State we have

to take a half gas or test to report the

camp and my first two years it was

completely fine my senior year I really

couldn't tell you what happened but I

took the test and I didn't pass it and

once we get to about 12 half geysers we

get we get an extra second to complete

them I made it I made it to 12 and I

believe I missed I missed my time on 13

13 and 14 I made 15 16 miss 17 18 and

made 19 and 20 and for me I had never

been in a situation to where I didn't

pass the test so I felt like a failure

one I was a senior and I failed the test

but two it was one of those things like

like what is going on like this is huge

like if I don't pass my test I don't get

to practice I'm a starter I'm a senior

you know so I felt like a failure in the

inside but at the at the end of the day

I had the real

like I'm dealing with something nobody

else on this field is dealing with and I

had to take that into consideration but

I am I am my toughest critic and you

know I want the best for myself and I

always want to achieve whatever goals I

set out for the rest of that day my

blood sugar was just ridiculously high

like ridiculously high and I don't know

if it was because the added stress that

I didn't make the test or that

everything was just all off or what

but I remember our tight ends coach at

the time coach Mark stating great guy

absolutely great guy I had this thing

for spongebob I like spongebob a lot so

the next day this this this guy drops

this big spongebob off in my locker with

a card in it from the little Michigan

State car and I can't remember verbatim

what it said but it said something

similar to dense and keep her head up

you're doing great and like I said he

knew I liked spongebob I had a spine

everybody know I like spongebob I used

to keep a spongebob sleeping bag in my

locker with a pillow and a spongebob

pillowcase so everybody on my team know

I like spongebob but the fact that he

went on his way to do that it made me

feel good about myself and realize like

I can't be so hard on myself for not

making like not making the 25 gassers

like I knew that I gave it my absolute

all in the fact that another coach from

the other side of the ball is kind of

saying like hey man you can't be so

tough on yourself like you're doing a

hell of a job you know what I mean so

like that made me realize like you know

what it's all good I'll come back and

whatever if they maybe do two or twenty

again tomorrow in the morning now door

20 came back the next morning Mike

Russell was my position coach and you

know in their staff meeting they made a

day they made an agreement that I only

had to make up six of them the next


which is fine because I'm not those

puppies out I was ready to go I just

wanted to get in just to clarify gasser

is across the field back and then across

one more time but we just do that we

just did to have

so down just down down in back okay yeah

but yeah it's uh it's no joke so if you

ever want to try to do 2025 guys there's

time and go ahead and make the make the

first set in 14 seconds and then do the

do this the the second the second half

the the other eight do those in 15

seconds let me know the brandon Denson

challenge post acting plenty you and ii

and we'll check it out i think we

touched on an important topic of being

our own harshest critics and i think i

can definitely relate to that in

multiple facets of my life but i want to

talk about you know a kind of revelation

that i had a kind of moment of clarity

that really I think started to set in

as I started game plan to you Indy and

that is kind of reframing my diagnosis

of type 1 diabetes as a massive blessing

in disguise I think you know we there

are so many hard parts about the disease

but at least growing up with type 1

diabetes really set me on a path of good

health where I had to be so accountable

and dialed in when it came to you know

what I'm putting in my body in terms of

fuel you know tracking my blood sugar

making sure that I exercise making sure

that I have a positive mental state all

of those things have such a more

important role in your life as a type 1

diabetic do you feel like you've kind of

experienced that and you can you relate

to that that idea of type 1 diabetes

kind of actually being a blessing in

disguise I tell a lot of the kids that I

talked to it truly is a blessing in

disguise because you really you don't

really realize what you're capable of or

who you're capable of helping or you

know being able to potentially turn

their life around or help them in

certain situations because you know

dealing with this disease can be very

overwhelming let's just be honest we

don't get a break from it kids that are

growing up with it they don't get a

break from it

their parents don't get a break from me

you know I could only imagine if I had a

kid and they had diabetes like even

though I have it I still would be

worried crazy on my

because it's always that what if or do

you have this or are you sure you have

this or you know like it's so when you

really think about it it's kind of scary

it is but at the end of the day you know

kids still have to be kids and live live

a full healthy fun successful life but I

do I do carry that's a blessing in

disguise just because you have some

people that handle it very well you have

some people that hand it okay you have

some people that are kind of terrible

and handling it but I think the fact

that other individuals that don't do as

well with it can talk to other people

that have had tremendous success with it

I think he essentially helps them out

when they do talk to those individuals

because they realize like wow like he or

she's going through the same thing that

I go through every day and they've been

able to achieve this amount of success

so it's like well you know what I can do

that too so is you know it's cool

because you're able to give inspiration

and give hope and give drive to where it

may not be there but the fact that you

can talk to somebody and instill that in

them and they they're able to see that I

think it goes a long way like you can't

you just the feeling that you get from

that it can't be explained so on that

topic if there is a type one diabetic

listening to this who's really

struggling really down in the dumps

maybe they just got diagnosed what would

be your message to them we talked a

little bit about the the no barriers

being kind of your big billboard message

but maybe this could be something a

little bit more specific to that person

that's really struggling right now I

want to see say no matter what in life

we're gonna have ups and downs gonna

have challenges we're gonna go through

adversity but the thing is you can hang

your head and deal with it or you can

hold your head high and deal with it the

the fact that the matter is you have to

hold yourself accountable and be

proactive about what's going on first to

saying I have this disease it sucks I

can't do anything with it you have to

kind of reverse that and say I have this

disease I'm gonna embrace it and I'm

do whatever it takes so I can be

successful and my family can be

successful my in my friends around me

can be successful there's I honestly

feel there's no there's no tax too small

or too big that type one diabetics can't

deal with their handle I think for me my

my response to that would just be it's a

choice like you said you have a choice

we all have choices in our lives but

like you said you can either kind of

face that challenge head-on or choose to

be passive and kind of let it take your

life in different directions and not be

in control but the biggest thing I would

say is just lean on that community lean

on your friends who want to help you

lean on your family lean on your

endocrinologist your nutritionist those

people that are there in a position to

help you and if you can make that choice

to live in a positive state of mind this

like we just touched on can be a

blessing in disguise and it can be a

gratifying character-building challenge

that makes me that makes you and me the

strong people that we are today and

makes people with type 1 diabetes that

ad asses you know it's it's it's a big

challenge but I'll tell you what

you know athletes diabetics we're

stronger because of that challenge sure

sweet all right Brandon thank you so

much for being on the show man first

episode in the books

JDRF is the one of the leading

fundraisers for type 1 diabetes and

research and the research covers covers

anything from finding a cure to

fundraising dollars to have have pumps

like the 670 G or C GM's as it relates

to Dexcom g 6 g 5 g 4s they have a

they're huge player in these departments

and also in creating getting the SDP

sign which is a special diabetes program

that just got renewed this year thank

you to everybody in DC that was a part

of that and if you ever need any help or

resources we are always here for you in

that department you can always visit


nation die org we have plenty of

resources that can be downloaded on

there and then for newly diagnosed

patients we also have a bag of Hope

which is offered from anybody from that

from the infant ages to the age of 15

and then we have t1d care kids from the

ages of 16 and up for adults and

teenagers that are diagnosed so it's


JDRF has been near and dear to my heart

ever since Nate Bob kind of got me

involved in it at Michigan State and

whether I work for JDRF or I don't work

for JDRF I always have it always have a

special place in my heart because it's

always given me a platform to speak

about diabetes and to help others that

are living with this disease and

caregivers as well definitely some

important resources and again that goes

back to the idea of we can improve our

system of care and you know the

stability of our blood sugar by leaning

on these communities and leaning on

these resources and obviously JDRF I've

experienced I've done the walk ever

since I was a little kid it's it's a

really important program they're doing

great work over there so we have three

walks that we'll be having for JDRF 2018

the first one will be Saturday September

29th is gonna be in Boston Massachusetts

at the DCR

hat show then we'll have another walk

Sunday September 30th 2018 and Lancaster

Massachusetts at the boat and

Fairgrounds and we'll have one more JDRF

warm walk Sunday October 14 2018 in East

Greenwich Rhode Island and Rocky Hill

School I'm Brendan a Denson I have type

1 diabetes and I have a game plan


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