Molded by life, Jay Bromley is more than just a football player

Nobody, not even SU defensive end Jay Bromley, thought he would become a football player. But after an unorthodox childhood, Bromley has fought his way to the top.

Jay Bromley is a senior and a starting defensive tackle on the Syracuse football team. But that's old news: he's started since his sophomore year.

He’s helped Syracuse in big wins: two Pinstripe Bowl victories — against Kansas State in 2010 and West Virginia in 2012 — and an upset win over then-No. 9 Louisville during homecoming last season. He is the only remaining starter from the 2012 defensive line, and he has become their leader.

"I've always worked hard. ... And when I focus, I can block out everything to do what I need to do."
- Jay Bromley

But Bromley said his entire life's story defines him — not just football.

Jayson "Jay" Bromley was born on May 18, 1992 in Jamaica, N.Y., a region of Queens. His father was in jail for murder, and his mother was addicted to crack cocaine. When he was 4 months old, Child Protective Services was going to take him from his mother. Luckily, Bromley said, his aunt and uncle, Frances and Roy Nimmons, took him in.

But don't call them his aunt and uncle; Bromley will correct you instantly. Frances and Roy are his mom and dad.

Frances Nimmons was 24 years old when she received custody of Bromley, and she already had three other children. But Nimmons said she had to do it.

"Because he was family," Nimmons said. "And I didn't want him to go into the system."

She told Bromley about his parents when he was 6 years old, Bromley said. And he appreciated her honestly.

"She never kept it a secret,” he said “I knew my father was in jail and my mother was on drugs."

Whenever either of his biological parents called or visited, Nimmons said she encouraged Bromley to talk to them. But it was too awkward, Bromley said. He was confused because, in his mind, he already had a mother and a father.

"I don't know what to call my mom because I thought I already had a mother," Bromley said. "My father, I didn't know what to call him; I only saw him three times before I was 17, so I felt like I had a home with a mom and pops.”

Other than that, Nimmons said Bromley fit in with her other children and lived a mostly normal childhood. But Bromley was also mischievous, Nimmons said. So much so, she said, Nimmons volunteered at his school just to keep him in line. Eventually, Bromley started fighting with other students. Bromley had so much built up anger, he said, he just needed a way to get it all out.

That way turned out to be football.

From fistfights to football

Jay Bromley steps out to speak with his mother. Jay is the youngest of four. He has seen his older sisters struggle through life, so he knows this may be his only opportunity to make something of himself and his family. (Photo: Ousman Diallo)

Jay Bromley had never played organized football before. So when he attended Flushing High School as a freshman in 2006, he wanted to give football a try.

Jim DeSantis, the head coach of Flushing’s football team, remembered a kid who was already almost six-feet tall and “was more fat than anything else at the time.”

But DeSantis also remembered a surprising amount of athleticism. “The first time I remember him was actually while we were doing our agility drills,” DeSantis said. “I was amazed at how big he was at the time ... and how agile he was for a big guy.”

Even though he showed great potential, Bromley still doubted whether football was right for him. He thought practices were too tough.

During that same time, Bromley's grandmother, Kay Frances Jones, died. Jones, Nimmons said, was “Jayson’s heart.” The sadness of losing one of the most important women in his life was almost too painful to stand, Bromley said. He even thought about quitting football.

Luckily, he said, his mother’s guidance helped him through the tough times and kept him playing football.

After playing on the offensive line for two years, Bromley said he was moved to the defensive side before his junior season. But he didn’t play much and DeSantis said he knew Bromley needed more exposure due to his late start.

The summer before his senior year, DeSantis took Bromley to the Rutgers Big Man Academy, which showcased local prospects. There, Bromley made good on his opportunity, DeSantis said.

“Here he is going against the best in the tri-state area and holding his own,” DeSantis said. “Here is a guy who wasn’t in Street & Smith magazine. He wasn’t on Rivals. He wasn’t in any of that stuff. And he was holding his own.”

Even then, Bromley didn’t receive a single Division 1 scholarship offer, while other athletes in his area did. “I played with a chip on my shoulder . . . because I felt like I was way better than what they had predicted me as,” Bromley said.

And after he finished his senior season, DeSantis said Bromley's only serious offer was from Stony Brook University. DeSantis recalled that Stony Brook told Bromley to raise his SAT scores and grades in order to receive a scholarship  and he did. But when the time came for Bromley's offer, Stony Brook changed its tune.

“He did all that only to find out he could walk-on there,” DeSantis said. “The scholarship that they said they would have for him — they gave it to someone else.”

In June of his senior year, Bromley was voted into the Outback Steakhouse Empire Challenge, a game that featured the area’s best prospects. Bromley's play in the game was, “just awesome," DeSantis said, and Bromley earned a MVP honor.

The player who had been doubted his whole high school career was now in the spotlight. A day later, Bromley said Syracuse University gave him the scholarship offer he had always been waiting for.

Joining the Orange

Bromley goes through drills during pre-season practice. (Photo: Ousman Diallo)

The first time Anthony Perkins saw Jay Bromley at summer workouts in 2010, he was not amused. “Oh, crap,” Perkins said to himself. “Here comes this big old dude, and you got to try and beat him down.”

But instead of becoming rivals, Bromley said Perkins taught him a lot.

Perkins, a senior defensive tackle at Syracuse in 2010, said it was easy to teach Bromley because of his attitude towards the game. “Most fresh come in and are sloppy," Perkins said. "But he came in hungry and ready to play."

Defensive leaders like Perkins are what kept Bromley going when he was having poor showings, Bromley said.

They encouraged Bromley the whole way, telling him things like, “ ‘You’re a freshman. This is camp. You’re going to have bad plays. But it’s not the end of the world. You go out there and you try to get better each and everyday and work on something.’ “

Bromley’s efforts and skills made it hard to keep him off the field, Perkins said, leading to Bromley playing in 12 games his freshman year.

“He was good,” Perkins said. “There was no doubt about it. And he was a quick learner. How could you keep him off the field?"

All their hard work was validated in the Orange’s Pinstripe Bowl victory against Kansas State, Perkins said.

“Standing on the field, it was really kind of a passing of the torch,” Perkins said. “It was basically like ‘Hey, this is it for me, but this is only your beginning.’ ”

Bromley carries the torch proudly today, and said he tries to do the exact same things for the younger guys on Syracuse’s defensive line.

Eric Crume, a junior defensive tackle on the team, said Bromley taught him a lot since he came to Syracuse.

“Since I first got here, he has basically taken me under his wing since we play the same position,” Crume said. “He just told me to keep hanging in and everything will work itself out if I continue to keep playing hard.”

Sounds oddly familiar, doesn't it?

One last season

As his senior season begins, Bromley still keeps the same mentality he always has: never be satisfied.

“That’s my thing: I always play with a chip on my shoulder that I have to get better," Bromley said. "I have to outwork people in the country because they think everybody else is better than me."

Bromley tested his stock in the NFL Draft after last season to see how pro scouts rated him. Scouts predicated he would go undrafted. That only provided more fuel to his fire.

“I was always overlooked, so why should I expect people to want me?" Bromley said. "Even if I went as a free agent, somebody is getting a bargain for what they are going to get, and I will just keep being the best defensive tackle/defensive end, because I know I can be productive.”

Even though his childhood was unconventional, Bromley said it helped him grow up faster. "I feel blessed because all those hardships helped me realize that life is pain and nothing's easy,” he said.

But right now, football is what’s important to Bromley.

"And at MetLife Stadium, with some family and loved ones in the crowd, it’s just to get back to college football and to do what we all love to do.”

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