He doesn't come with the hype, the anticipation and the admiration that Budda Baker arrived at UW with. But some inside the UW football program believe he isn't far off from producing at Baker-like levels.
They marvel at Myles Bryant the way many of the same coaches and teammates used to marvel at Budda Baker.
To be clear: Myles Bryant isn’t Budda Baker — not in production, nor prestige, and certainly not with the kind of anticipation and admiration that surrounded his arrival at the University of Washington.
No, Bryant isn’t there.
Not yet, anyway.
But there are some inside the UW football program who believe Bryant isn’t far off from producing at the level Baker did as a do-everything All-American defensive back for the Huskies last season.
“We all love him,” said Jimmy Lake, UW’s co-defensive coordinator and secondary coach. “The guys love him. They see how hard he works in the weight room, on the field. He’s smart. He knows his position, he knows other people’s positions, so he can make the checks, make the calls.
“He’s one of those guys who’s similar to a Budda Baker, where he’s an extension of a coach out on the field. And then he plays with a motor you want them to play with. We’re really, really excited about him.”
Bryant came from Pasadena, Calif., to Seattle last season as a walk-on defensive back — a 5-foot-8, 172-pound walk-on who managed to crack the rotation on one of the best defensive secondaries in the nation.
He saw the approach that Baker, Sidney Jones and Kevin King would take to their craft and soon he was trying to mimic their every move, joining them for extra film sessions, spending more time in the weight room. Jones, now with the Philadelphia Eagles, and Bryant had lockers next to each other last season, and Jones said he took the freshman under his wings.
“He’s always been the guy to put in the extra work. Back when I was there I used to see him working on his technique after practice on a consistent basis,” Jones said in a message to The Times this week. “He was always there in Coach Lake’s office watching film and trying to critique his game to be the best. …
“I just love the way he plays the game — always around the ball, he has great instincts, great movement skills and a passion for the game. That’s my guy.”
Now a 180-pound sophomore, Bryant has taken over Baker’s starting nickelback role in No. 6 Washington’s 2-0 start. He said recently he didn’t expect any dropoff with the secondary this season — even with Baker, Jones and King all going in the second round of the NFL draft this spring — and so far he seems to be right, at least in terms of the overall athleticism of the new-look secondary.
Bryant has 10 tackles, two for a loss, and two pass breakups in his first two career starts. Lake said he plans to use Bryant in a variety of roles.
“When you get guys who are bright like Myles Bryant, who can handle a lot of information, it makes it tough on offenses knowing where that guy’s going to be and what he’s doing,” Lake said.
Lake and UW coach Chris Petersen had hoped to make the announcement a surprise. Bryant was meeting one-on-one in Lake’s office for an end-of-spring evaluation, and Petersen came in with some good news: Bryant had earned a scholarship.
Bryant’s reaction? “OK, cool.”
He has always been understated in that way, his father says.
“He plays on fire … but he has a very monotone personality,” Joel Bryant said.
The scholarship, of course, was met with much more excitement from the parents when their son, and Lake, rang with the news. They, after all, were the ones paying his out-of-state tuition last year.
“That was huge for us,” Joel Bryant said. “My wife, Michelle, was in tears. Literally in tears. …
“When he wanted to go out of state, we thought, ‘We’ll figure it out.’ But then you look at it and one year (of tuition) times four — we could potentially be in debt for 200-plus thousand dollars.”
Before his senior season at Loyola High School in Los Angeles, Bryant did have three Pac-12 scholarship offers in hand, from UW, UCLA and Colorado. But before he decided where he wanted to go to college, those offers had suddenly been rescinded — other defensive backs had accepted offers and filled up the spots at each school.
“The Washington coaches were very direct and up front about what was on the table and the potential for other guys to step in and take the offer,” Joel Bryant said. “We didn’t act on it. It was our first time going through it and our feet were stuck.
“In a way, it’s even sweeter now. … You have to pinch yourself sometimes because it is amazing thing. I give him credit because he had the courage to do this. There were times we said, ‘Should he really step out and take this chance and walk-on?’”
Bryant said he always believed in himself.
“Coming here, I really didn’t have the mindset, ‘Oh, I need to get this scholarship. I need to get it,’” Bryant said. “I just came here and wanted to play right away, and I knew if I did what I needed to do, that would just come along.”