If your idea of an NFL football player is a massive frame with a personality to match, meet Tariq Bracy. The Milpitas native—all 5 feet, 10 inches of him—is part of a group of 16 young men participating in California Strength’s NFL Combine Training program in Los Gatos.
Bracy and his fellow athletes from around the country are staying at the Hotel Los Gatos and doing daily fieldwork at Creekside Sports Park, followed by weight training at the California Strength facility on Main Street. This is capped off by hot yoga and recovery modalities at The Club Los Gatos.
It’s a rigorous regimen developed by Dave Spitz and Scott Esperanza, partners in California Strength, which began in San Ramon, where they still have facilities. In 2021, Spitz and Esparza teamed up with Alex Anderson from The Club Los Gatos to establish a second outpost of California Strength.
Two years ago, Spitz—who knows the extensive network of NFL agents and scouts, not to mention all 32 NFL franchise team owners—developed a program specifically to increase the strength, flexibility and endurance of this pool of athletes, all of whom have played exemplary college football and want to play in the NFL.
With his bright green running shoes and Fighting Irish sweatshirt under a Notre Dame jacket, Bracy is fresh off a winning season as a cornerback at the Indiana college.
While playing football at Milpitas High School, Bracy’s coach saw something special in this young man, slight of build and big of heart. So did a scout from Notre Dame. While Bracy had hoped to attend USC with his twin brother Tyre, he found himself on red-eye to South Bend, Indiana.
“When I got off the plane and saw the campus, I knew in my heart this was the right place for me,” says Bracy.
The twins, the youngest of four children, played hard against one another, their sibling rivalry propelling them to the next level. Tyre is studying kinesiology and playing football at USC, while Tariq’s degree from Notre Dame is in psychology.
“I know that after football, I have the rest of my life,” says Bracy. “I want to be a counselor and help people make life transitions.”
Bracy underwent a transition when he left his home state for college. Slender and weighing only 151 lbs. when he arrived at Notre Dame, he encountered the culture shock that awaits Californians arriving in the Midwest.
“They think we’re soft and spoiled,” says Bracy. “They teased me for my size and my chill attitude, but it’s all part of the game.”
His teammates soon saw the heart and grit of this graceful and gracious young man, who moves with surefootedness and stealth. Easy to get along with, he does his job with unwavering focus, and he’s up to a muscular 183.
Bracy also played baseball in high school. “I love that game, too,” he says. “I was a pitcher, usually the closer.
“I have always wanted to be in the NFL,” he adds. “My heroes were running backs like Adrian Peterson and Marshall Faulk, which is why I chose number 28.”
Both players wore that jersey number at different points in their careers.
Bracy’s dream is to play for the New Orleans Saints.
“I get up every day and do the work, because I want to play corner back in the NFL. The other guy isn’t taking a day off. Neither am I.”