INDIANAPOLIS – The two players stood next to each other like old friends, even though they played on teams in different parts of the country.
Former Michigan receiver Steve Breaston and former Louisiana State wideout Dwayne Bowe nonchalantly watched clips of the Senior Bowl in the Indiana Convention Center on Feb. 23. Both were quick to laugh and smile as they talked about the game’s highlights.
But when they took their turns at the podium in front of reporters, the similarities between the two quickly disappeared.
Breaston came into the NFL Scouting Combine projected solely as a return specialist in the pros.
And he’s fine with that.
“I would be happy just to come in and contribute any way I can,” Breaston said. “Special teams or receiver, it doesn’t matter. Whatever the coaches ask me to do, I’ll be happy to do.”
His counterpart, Bowe, looks to make a greater impact in the NFL as a wide receiver. The Tiger wideout complemented the Louisiana State aerial attack fueled by quarterback JaMarcus Russell. Bowe racked up nearly 1,000 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns on 65 receptions this season.
But even though the 6-foot-3 star from Miami arrived in Indianapolis battling for the same job as the 6-foot-1 Breaston, neither let that affect their friendship off the field.
“When it’s time to compete, we compete, but it’s just like anything in life,” Breaston said. “You have friends sometimes compete for the same job. That’s what you see here. Everyone’s out here competing, (but) you still have that same friendship that at the end of the day. You’re just hanging out and chilling.”
Breaston hopes the exciting play of Chicago Bears’ return man Devin Hester in the NFL regular season and in the Super Bowl raised return specialists’ stock in this year’s draft.
In his four years suiting up for the Wolverines, Breaston stood out more as a punt and kickoff returner than a wide receiver.
Breaston sees his versatility as an advantage heading into the draft.
“Being able to punt return and kick return, I think that will get me on the field a lot more than just being a receiver,” Breaston said. “My ability to return kicks and make plays after I get the ball.”
After collecting a Rose-Bowl record 221 kickoff return yards in the 2005 Rose Bowl against Texas, it seemed Breaston would build on his success. But the North Braddock, Pa., native struggled this season both as a wideout and in the return game.
He caught just two touchdown passes on 670 receiving yards and returned one punt for a touchdown. In the third game of the season against Notre Dame, Breaston became the Big Ten career punt return yardage leader with 1,352 yards.
Throughout his career at Michigan, he accepted a supporting receiver role behind stars like Braylon Edwards and Mario Manningham.
Breaston headed out to Arizona following the season to train for the combine.
Since the combine heavily stresses the 40-yard dash time, Breaston came into Indianapolis with a target 40-time in mind, but he wouldn’t divulge the secret. When he ran on the third day of the combine, he was clocked at 4.41 seconds.
While in Indianapolis, Breaston talked to a couple of teams, but when it comes to ideal situations, the fifth-year senior would be happy with a roster spot on any NFL team.
“If I get drafted, I just want the opportunity to get my foot in the door,” Breaston said. “Then, after that, see where it goes.”