SPARTANBURG Richie Brockel does a little bit of everything for the Carolina Panthers.
He plays tight end, fullback and special teams.
Brockel blocks, tackles on coverage teams and occasionally gets to touch the football.
His versatility extended to the offseason this year. For three months, he worked for an accounting firm in Boise, Idaho, billing 55 hours a week while preparing individual and corporate tax returns.
Apparently, the desk work didn’t make him soft.
Brockel, the Panthers’ human Swiss Army knife, was the star of Monday’s one-on-one blocking drill pitting the team’s tight ends and running backs against blitzing linebackers and defensive backs.
At 6-foot-1 and 255 pounds, Brockel took on all-comers, beginning with veteran Thomas Davis and a couple of other linebackers. None reached the quarterback, who in this case was being played by coach Ron Rivera.
“That’s one of my favorite drills,” Brockel said. “It’s one-on-one competition and there’s nothing more fun than that. You can get exposed because it is one on one. That’s what makes it so fun because you’re really getting after it with one guy and there’s a clear winner and loser.”
Brockel’s success in the drill epitomized what he brings to the team. There were no handoffs or pass routes. It was mano a mano, and Brockel won.
“Richie is a jack of all trades. He does things that we need. He does the dirty work,” Rivera said. “There’s a toughness about Richie, too, that I like, that helps transfer over to his teammates. That’s important as well.
“I think the thing about guys like him is you get enough good, tough, physical football players and it spreads to the other guys that need it.”
Brockel is entering his fourth season with the Panthers. He has four carries, four receptions and one touchdown, which came on a trick play against Houston during 2011.
The touchdown play, inspired by the movie “Little Giants,” is what Brockel is best known for among Panthers fans. His teammates and coaches appreciate the total package.
“He’s one of the best role players I’ve ever coached,” said tight ends coach Pete Hoener, who has coached in college and the NFL for 40 years. Tight end “Greg (Olsen) is very intelligent when it comes to football. Richie’s the same way. He understands the total game, can play any position related to what he does, and do it well.”
Brockel’s smarts served him this past winter.
Brockel, who earned a master’s degree in taxation during his final year at Boise State, worked at the Deloitte accounting firm from February through the end of tax season.
He would arrive at the office at 5 a.m., take a three-hour lunch break to work out at Boise State, and go back in until 6 or 7 p.m. Saturdays were not an off day.
“It’s something I was always interested in. I just figured I might as well try it out,” Brockel said. “I just told them football’s got to be the priority. But I worked a lot.”
He worked alongside a number of Broncos and Seahawks fans, but Brockel said it was a fun office environment. He was not in danger of turning into a “suit.”
“We didn’t have to wear a suit. It’s the West Coast,” said Brockel, who wore a button down with slacks except Fridays, when he wore jeans.
He does not fit the stereotype of a number cruncher.
Teammates call him “Mauler” for his blocking prowess, and he’s more comfortable toting a backpack than a briefcase.
After tax season and before training camp, Brockel and his wife went hiking several days and hosted former Panthers offensive lineman and Idaho native Jordan Gross and his family for a cookout in Boise.
Brockel also participated in a race with three of his former Boise State teammates in which teams biked 27 miles while stopping at stations for various mental and physical tests. Brockel’s team finished third among more than 60 groups.
Brockel, who signed a two-year extension during the offseason, said he considers himself a tight end first. But true to his diverse skill set, Brockel said he has joked with defensive coordinator Sean McDermott about getting snaps on defense.
Where would he line up on defense?
“Wherever they want me,” Brockel said, smiling. “It doesn’t matter.”
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