Tyler Brayton is uncertain whether he’ll ever play in the National Football League this season or in the future. However, he is certain about his plans to drag race whether he’s on the gridiron or not.
Recently Tyler participated in the World Footbrake Challenge and while he didn’t do as well as his quarter-final finish in Rockingham Dragway’s Summit Super Series ET Championship Series, he wasn’t overly disappointed.
Drag racing his 1964 Chevelle provides an appreciated diversion for the six-foot, six-inch defensive end most recently with the Indianapolis Colts.
“I’m still looking for a job in the NFL and if it doesn’t happen, I am trying to prepare myself mentally. If it does happen, I want to be prepared physically,” Brayton said. “I’ve been getting out and racing maybe two weekends out of the month. I try to get out with it when I can and have fun.”
Brayton became a gearhead long before he chased down quarterbacks on the professional football stage. He worked on a daily driver project with his dad and built the car into a formidable street machine. He attended the drags when he could, and it wasn’t until he became a first round draft pick for the Oakland Raiders that he gave drag racing a try. He entered his car in the Street division at the local track and ended up reaching the fifth round.
The early success served only to wet his appetite for speed.
Brayton played out his contract with the Raiders and headed east to Charlotte where he signed as a free agent with the Carolina Panthers.
He’d longed during his time out west to attend Frank Hawley’s Drag Racing School but logistics didn’t afford the opportunity. Once he settled in after the move to Charlotte he attended Hawley’s school and completed the Super Gas course.
Much to the chagrin of his pigskin employers, he’s been drag racing ever since.
“Drag racing is the perfect combination of speed, cars and competition … especially bracket racing,” explained Brayton. “That’s why I chose bracket racing because you don’t have to be the fastest to win. I’ve really enjoyed taking in some of the different bracket series around here. “
Bracket racing might be fun but it doesn’t deliver the same kind of payday playing football can.
“I don’t know that I am ever going to make any money bracket racing,” said Brayton. “It’s a great sport and I would love to be involved in it more. I’d love to travel to more of the big bracket races. I’d like to see what the future has to offer.”
Regardless, Brayton is enjoying his time at home with his wife and their three children. Pursuit angles he once religiously practiced are now replaced with getting his kids ready for the day and minding to them.
“I still work [out in the gym],” said Brayton. “Plus when time permits, I work on the car.”
In between parenting, workouts and races, Brayton spends time working with former Panthers chaplain Mike Bunkley in a program assisting present and former players in the Charlotte area giving back to the community.
Brayton cannot say at this moment whether he’s past or present. Presently he’s had no contact with any other teams.
“I have no idea where I might end up at … up in the air … there’s a lot of unknowns,” Brayton explained. “Which is exciting for us … there’s the possibility of playing another season and if this doesn’t happen … we’re excited about the next chapter of our life.”
This chapter includes drag racing which definitely excites him.
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