COVINGTON – The smile comes easy.

The words sometimes don’t.

But nerves and all, Josiah Bronson will get them out. He lets nothing stand in his way, on or off the football field, particularly a slight stutter that occasionally creeps up during stressful situations.

Like a newspaper interview.

But Bronson tackles each pause with the efficiency he exhibits taking down running backs. It’s a challenge he’s faced since childhood.

“It’s been hard, but I’ve been able to get through it,” he said.

Many friends and teammates of the Kentwood High School star defensive end aren’t even aware of the speech disorder.

“When he’s confident, it’s not even noticeable,” coach Rex Norris said. “And he doesn’t stutter nearly as much as he used to.”

Bronson started working with a speech therapist at age 12 when his parents realized he wasn’t growing out of it.

“He just needs people to give him the opportunity to form his thoughts,” his mother, Sandra Bronson, said.

Josiah has a lot to live up to as the youngest of four athletic children. John, the eldest, played football at Penn State and was a tight end with the Arizona Cardinals for two-plus seasons.

Leitawsha, the only daughter, was a basketball and track standout who has Olympic aspirations in the shot put. And Dimitrius, who holds rushing records at Kentwood, spent this preseason with the Seahawks as a rookie free agent.

Josiah has helped the Conquerors win or share the past two North Division titles. Kentwood, which went 7-3 last year and lost in the first round of the Class 4A playoffs, is a clear favorite to win the division this season.

“Josiah has made his own way,” Sandra said.

And in part to make sure academics came first, she didn’t allow him to play football until he was in eighth grade. He pursued music, sang, and played drums and the keyboard.

Bronson began making a name for himself as a defensive end last year. He has a scholarship offer from Idaho, and interest from Pac-12 schools is picking up.

This season, at 6 feet 6 and 265 pounds, he is moving from offensive tackle to tight end and Norris expects him to make a big impact there, too.

“Now we’re able to take advantage of some of his athleticism that he shows on the defensive side of the ball and create a presence for us at the tight end position,” Norris said. “He’s as explosive as ever, and right now when Jo really goes full tilt, we don’t have anyone who can block him.”

Sandy Ringer: 206-718-1512 or sringer@seattletimes.com