Most 22-year-olds don't get regular phone calls from Michael Vick.
But then again, most 22-year-olds weren't All-Americans as freshmen in college.
Meet Furman senior receiver Brian Bratton.
Bratton, a former Lakeside High football player, has had a collegiate career as impressive as his cell phone directory, which includes the aforementioned Falcons quarterback and his teammates Alge Crumpler, Warrick Dunn and Chris Draft.
"A lot of people don't understand they are just like anyone else," Bratton said about his famous friends. "I talked to Mike a few days before the season opener against the 49ers and I went to last week's game against the Rams. All those guys are real supportive and I can call them anytime for advice."
Bratton, who met the players during the Falcons' summer camp at Furman's campus, has been lighting up opposing defenses for four seasons.
"Brian is very athletic," Furman coach Bobby Lamb said. "He is a play-maker and a difference-maker."
With 91 catches for 1,295 yards and 12 touchdowns, Bratton already ranks among the greatest receivers in Furman history after only two years of starting.
"A coach from Vanderbilt told me Brian could play at any school in the SEC," Lakeside coach Randy Hill said.
He was an All-American kick returner as a freshman, averaging 37.2 a return with three touchdowns.
"I don't think he's seen but one kicked at him since that first year," Lamb said. "Opposing kickers recognize his ability."
Bratton said he thought he would fill a role on the Paladins' return team, not lead the nation in kickoff returns.
Lamb also was surprised.
"We never expect a freshman to have that kind of success," he said. "He got a lot of confidence returning kicks."
That ability to make a difference on special teams increases Bratton's chance to make an NFL team.
The 5-foot-10 receiver will have to make an impact as a kick or punt returner to get the opportunity.
"His special teams abilities will help him," said Drew Cronic, the Paladins' receivers coach. "Good players get into the NFL and don't make it."
Bratton knows he has an edge that most players don't.
"I've developed a friendship with (the Falcons' players)," he said. "To know I have guys in my corner that are (in the NFL) is big. They give me tips and straightforward advice."
As for the knock on his size, Bratton said he compares favorably to another friend, Carolina Panthers receiver Steve Smith.
Smith heard the same criticisms about his size when he left Utah for the NFL and has since become one of the league's best receivers.
"I'm actually bigger than Steve," Bratton said. "We are similar in athletic ability. I know I am getting knocked for my size, but I'm not going to worry about it."
Bratton said his focus now is on the Paladins winning a national title, the only recognition he hasn't received at Furman.
But he said he'll be ready for the NFL Draft in April. Vick has told him if he wants it bad enough, he can make it.
"Oh, I definitely want it," Bratton said. "You can count on that."
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