He committed to UW in April after amassing 1,137 yards on 48 catches with 17 touchdowns last season.
SAMMAMISH — There are five reasons why it’s stunning Hunter Bryant is able to race past defenders, stiff-arm cornerbacks and make one-handed catches in the end zone:
One dislocated ankle, two fractures in his leg, a fractured back and a hamstring avulsion where the muscle pulled a piece of bone away from Bryant’s pelvis. All of the injuries happened within a year, beginning with the ankle at the end of Bryant’s eighth-grade football season in October 2012.
“It was just so random,” said the Eastside Catholic senior of when he slipped on grass as he walked to the school bus after class. His ankle twisted behind him and he fractured his fibula and tibia.
Metro League: Five teams to watch
Eastside Catholic: Spent the summer collecting titles in 7-on-7 play, and a third straight 3A state championship is likely.
O’Dea: Rainier Beach transfer Jamyn Patu, an all-Metro Sound Division player on offense and defense.
Bishop Blanchet: Kyle Moore led team to the state semifinals in his first season but lost key players to graduation.
Ballard: Undefeated (5-0) in league play last season but is under new leadership in alum Ross Humphries.
Rainier Beach: Youthful team overachieved a bit last year; experience could make Vikings a prime contender.
After rehabilitating from that, Bryant was doing squats three weeks before football practice in his freshman season at ECHS when he suffered the hamstring avulsion. Eager to return, Bryant played four games in the span of eight days that year, limping off the field in the last with a fractured back.
Five players to watch
TE/DE, 6-3, 230, Sr., Eastside Catholic
Outlook: Understands angles to make dazzling plays, had 48 catches for 1,137 yards and 17 touchdowns last year.
RB/LB, 5-9, 190, Sr., Eastside Catholic
Outlook: Dropped 35 pounds and rehabbed an ankle injury. Has returned quicker, poised for breakout season.
DT/DE, 6-3, 270, Sr., O’Dea
Outlook: Anchor of the defense was Lineman of the Year in the Mountain Division with 56 tackles and 10 sacks.
OG, 5-9, 230, Sr., Rainier Beach
Outlook: All-Metro Sound Division first-team pick, gained valuable experience with young team.
DE/DT, 6-3, 237, Sr., Lakeside
Outlook: All-Metro Mountain Division first-team player on defense, hae 56 tackles and 10 sacks in eight games.
“I blame myself,” said his father, Eric, a former strength coach and running back at the University of Washington. The elder Bryant has a private personal-training business.
“Coach wanted to get him ready for playing varsity,” Eric said of discussions with ECHS coach Jeremy Thielbahr. “With a good heart and understanding, yeah, play as many games as you can. But if I had to do it all over again, I probably would have said no. Football is football. I don’t think it’s normal. But when you look at Hunter, he’s such a physical athlete and so good at what he does, it’s really easy to want to get him in (the game) at any time you can.”
Hunter, who’s 6 feet 3 and 230 pounds, scored four touchdowns the first game of his sophomore year. He committed to UW in April after amassing 1,137 yards on 48 catches with 17 touchdowns.
The Crusaders finished the season undefeated (13-0), topping it with a comeback win against Bellevue for the Class 3A state championship. The night at the Tacoma Dome was one of Bryant’s best, making touchdown catches of 28 and 5 yards in the second half of the 48-42 overtime win.
“Usually during games I listen for the crowd noise to tell what kind of play he made since I’m blocking,” Brody McKnight, a 6-3 senior lineman, said. “They’re almost always going crazy.”
The Crusaders lost star quarterback Harley Kirsch to graduation and McKnight is providing leadership to a young group of linemen. Overall, the team lost 16 starters from 2015.
But Thielbahr worked with Bryant during the offseason to get more creative with the offense — moving him from tight end to wide receiver. Bryant, who wants to study kinesiology at UW, also spent the summer analyzing game footage with his dad.
The preinjury clips are some of Hunter’s favorite, returning old tricks to his game.
“It’s worked out pretty well,” he said with a bashful laugh.