Football’s Payton Muljo, Brady Hanson participate in NFL pro day


DREAM CHASERS—Brady Hanson, Dustin Brancheau, Payton Muljo and Michigan Tech’s Nate LaJoie pose after completing drills at the NFL pro day hosted by Saginaw Valley State last week. Photo courtesy of Payton Muljo

Travis Nelson, Sports Editor

Football players ending their career at the college level is very common, but it is the dream of most to make it to the National Football League (NFL) ranks someday. For Northern Michigan University football players Payton Muljo and Brady Hanson, their dream of making it to the next level stays alive after participating in an NFL pro day hosted by Saginaw Valley State University last Tuesday.

Eighteen NFL teams and three Canadian Football League (CFL) teams were in attendance to watch 21 players, mostly from the GLIAC, participate in drills. Saginaw Valley had seven athletes, Ferris State had six, NMU and Davenport two, and Michigan Tech defensive tackle Nate LaJoie and Wayne State offensive lineman Landin Mitchell rounded out the GLIAC talent. Olivet College and Siena Heights also each had one representative. The athletes participated in positional drills while doing the bench press, vertical and broad jumps, 40-yard dash, pro shuttle and L-drill. 

Both players came into the Northern program for the 2017 season. Hanson was one of two Wildcats to earn All-GLIAC First Team accolades this season playing safety, and Muljo earned All-GLIAC Honorable Mention for his work at left tackle. Both come from different paths but were together as teammates one last time at this pro day downstate.

“It’s all up to God for me, I really appreciate him putting me in the position where I could be there,” Hanson said. “In regards to going there with Payton, it was super cool just to be there with the guy that I came into Northern with. He was there, I think, a semester before I got there in the spring, but it was awesome to gain me some more comfortable going into that. But it’s cool, I don’t know the last time that two NMU players were at a pro day together.”

Hanson is from Kewaskum, Wisconsin, and at a large height of 6 feet 5 inches, was at a unique height playing the safety position. He was invited to the Central Michigan University pro day held on the same day originally, but something came up with too many participants, so Hanson was invited to the SVSU pro day after that. With his tall frame, Hanson looks to make the shift to linebacker at the next level if given the chance.

Muljo hails from right here in Marquette, and the former Redmen started his NMU career as a walk-on. Muljo has no shortage of size either standing at 6 feet 6 inches, and he really had to put weight through the course of his career to give him the best chance to succeed for the Wildcats. Starting out his freshman year at 235 pounds, Muljo said that he got up to around 300 pounds now, and he’s had to work for everything. Muljo applied for a fifth year of eligibility, but his request was denied. With that decision, so was his future until a phone call came.

“I really didn’t know if I was going to play football again,” Muljo said. “My future was up in the air and I was just trying to stay optimistic. I actually got the call two days before the NFL pro day to be invited down there, so it’s just a blessing. It took a lot of patience and a lot of hard work over the years.”

Both Wildcats were able to talk with NFL personnel at the pro day, and for Muljo, he was able to speak with the Chicago Bears scout that specifically requested him to participate in the event. Both players also are grateful for their coaches to put them in this spot, particularly the work of team strength coach and AdvantEdge Training owner Dustin Brancheau, who made the trip down to University Center to take in the pro day.

“The gym is the main thing that has really separated me from a lot of the other competition. I’ve been working at AdvantEdge Training in Marquette,” Muljo said. “Dustin Brancheau has been a mentor to me, he’s taken care of me since I was younger.”

“I think without him as our strength coach and without him letting me come and spend my summers with them, I wouldn’t be in the position that I was,” Hanson said. “So shout out to him, he’s definitely got one of the best gyms in the Midwest. That was the game-changer for me, that gave me the competitive edge.”

The NFL Draft takes place from Thursday, April 28 – Saturday, April 30, where seven rounds and 262 picks will be selected by the 32 NFL teams. For undrafted players, spanning from the day the draft ends and potentially weeks after that, the phone will be ringing off the hook to sign players to rookie mini-camps. For Muljo and Hanson, if that phone call does come, they’re going to be at their best to try and make the most of it.

“It was a big opportunity to put on for the GLIAC and for Division II as a whole because I believe that there’s a lot of talent as a whole looked past for the next level,” Muljo said. “It was fun to be around the guys from the other teams, and you could tell that there was a very positive attitude in the air.”

“It was awesome, going into those things I kept telling myself that I’m not nervous, or something that I’m not too worried about,” Hanson said. “I felt pretty confident going in, I put in the work, so I feel confident about my abilities. It was just a great day, we spent four years leading up to that one moment, and I think we made the most of it.”