As a young, wide-eyed redshirt freshman at Penn State in 2019 and 2020, Nittany Lions tight end Brenton Strange had a front-row seat to observe the leadership that then-Penn State tight end Pat Freiermuth displayed day after day.
Two years later, after Freiermuth was a second-round pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2021, Strange took a lot from Freiermuth’s leadership style, implementing it into his own way of leading a young tight ends room with the Nittany Lions. That leadership and daily accountability paid off for Strange as he started 12 games last season and hauled in 32 receptions for 362 yards and five touchdowns.
Now, one step away from joining Freiermuth in the NFL, Strange is appreciative of the way Freiermuth led and helped show him what it takes.
“Something that he was really good at and something that y’all probably don’t see aside from the football is how he came in the building every week and how he prepared the schedule,” Strange said to reporters regarding Freiermuth’s leadership. “So that’s what I took from him. I carried the tradition along. He used to do stuff with us. Like, we would meet as a tight end group and there would be no coaches or anything. We would just going for film. and the older guys, the leader in the room would do that.
“And that was something that I carried over with the younger guys and the rest of the dudes in our group.”
Freiermuth was highly regarded as a leader coming out of school, but it’s pretty cool to hear that story from Strange as we never quite heard that about Freiermuth during his time at Penn State. But, early in his career in Pittsburgh that’s something that’s carried over as he’s become the face of the tight end room and one of the key leaders of a young group overall offensively.
Having that type of leadership within his position group on the field with him helped Strange come along in his last few years, which helped prepare him to get to the point he’s at now: one step away from reaching the NFL.
At the Combine, Strange has a chance to open some eyes in a deep, talented tight end class. The Steelers apparently already have eyes on him, too, as Strange stated the Steelers’ tight end coach Alfredo Roberts already met with him, and that it would be “really cool” to reunite with Freiermuth in the NFL in the Steel City.
“I would be blessed and I would be happy to play for any organization, first and foremost. But yeah, I met with the Steelers, I met with the tight ends coach [Alfredo Roberts] and we had a great conversation,” Strange stated to reporters Friday. “Talked about some of Pat, just talked about funny moments that we had together, and it would be really cool to be with Pat again.
“But obviously I know it doesn’t always work out like that, so wherever I land I’ll be happy.”
The Steelers may have a need for a guy like Strange late in the draft with veteran tight end Zach Gentry an unrestricted free agent and Freiermuth and second-year tight end Connor Heyward a free agent. There’s a real need for that blocking tight end in the Steelers’ system as they like to run 12 personnel a lot under Canada, and that’s a strength for Strange.
We’ll see how it plays out, but Roberts was pretty prominent at the Penn State Pro Day when Freiermuth was coming out, not hiding the Steelers’ interest before they ultimately landed him. We’ll see if Roberts is in Happy Valley for the Pro Day this month for Strange, too.