GREEN BAY, Wis. – Green Bay Packers tight end Bronson Kaufusi, once a menacing pass rusher at BYU, comes from an accomplished family.
His father, Steve, played for the Philadelphia Eagles and was a former college assistant coach. His mom, Michelle, is the mayor of Provo, Utah, and a marathoner. His younger brothers, Corbin and Devin, also played football at BYU.
“I’ve been competing probably since the day I was born,” Kaufusi said this week. “I still remember the first time I beat my mom in a race.”
One day before Kaufusi was in third grade, he and his brothers were at the University of Utah’s indoor practice facility, where his father was coaching. His mom went to take the kids home. But first, they ran a half-gasser – back-and-forth across the field. Bronson won.
“She was so mad that we had to race again,” Kaufusi recalled with a laugh.
He called Corbin, who’s about a year-and-three-quarters younger, his “best friend and worst enemy” during their frequent battles.
“Everything’s a competition,” Kaufusi said, “from eating to ping pong to whoever can do anything the longest. Uno gets intense. It’s been so, so fun. My wife (Hilary), she played soccer at BYU, so she fits in really nicely with my family.”
“There’s always a reigning champion in my family,” he added. “Whether it’s basketball, playing 21, ping pong, tennis, pickle ball. Everyone knows there’s a reigning champion. Whatever it is, whatever sport you can think of, there’s a reigning champion, and it switches every time we play.”
Kaufusi finished his career ranked second in BYU history with 26.5 sacks and third with 44 tackles for losses. As a senior, he had 11 sacks, 20 tackles for losses and a nation’s-best four blocked kicks. The Baltimore Ravens selected him in the third round of the 2016 draft.
Who knows if his career would have turned out differently had he not suffered a broken ankle during the first week of his rookie training camp. Just like that, his first NFL season was over. It’s impossible to quantify how that lost season hurt his development.
“Whenever you go through injuries, you really miss the hardest things,” he said. “I like moving forward and getting stuff done. Things probably could have been different because you’re able to go out there and play and improve.”
Kaufusi played in only three games for the Ravens in 2017 and was released at the end of training camp in 2018. The New York Jets signed him, and he played in three games for them in 2018 and again in 2019. It was during that 2019 season that the seeds for a position change were sown by then-coach Adam Gase.
“A lot of our tight ends had gotten hurt so I was like, ‘I’ll go out there and play it,’” Kaufusi recalled. “Each week and really every day, I was getting better and better and making a lot of plays. Every day, he’d come up to me and tell me, ‘I’m going to move you.’ Sure enough, at the end of the year, I moved to tight end. I was having a lot of fun with it, honestly.”
Kaufusi spent training camp last summer playing tight end. That was his primary position at camps in high school but one that his high school did not use.
“It was almost like I was going home,” he said of the change.
With an abbreviated training camp and no preseason games, Kaufusi faced an insurmountable challenge to win a spot on the roster. So, he toiled away on the practice squad last year. The Packers signed him to a futures deal on Jan. 15. He spent the offseason in the “hop pocket” of veteran Marcedes Lewis.
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Kaufusi, who will turn 30 on July 6, is looking forward to showing what he can do when training camp begins on July 27.
“You never know what can happen in this league. It’s just a day-by-day thing, honestly,” he said. “Anything can happen. Every day in camp, I just want to show them what I can do and that I can help the team and be a great teammate and help us get those wins. That’s what it comes down to. I’m really looking forward to it, considering we didn’t have a preseason last year. I’m looking forward to those. With no preseason games, no cross-practices, that was pretty tough. I know I have to take as many reps as I can get, so every rep is really golden to me. I’m looking forward to being able to put it on tape.”