Terrell Bynum is burning.
Washington’s redshirt sophomore wide receiver has been for years, though the wildfire only recently spread to Husky Stadium. His first two seasons in Seattle went by without a catch, as Bynum redshirted in 2017 and didn’t register a single statistic in 10 games last season. But all the while, he was working — with a helpful reminder wrapped around his right wrist.
The 6-foot-1, 189-pound wideout estimates he got the wristband during his junior season at Servite High School, before he transferred back to St. John Bosco in Bellflower, Calif., in 2015. It’s black, featuring six words printed in white capital letters:
IF IT BURNS, YOU’RE GETTING CLOSER
Bynum isn’t there yet, and he knows it. But he’s burning, day by day. He’s grinding and learning and practicing and improving.
“If you’re not doing anything above and beyond, you’re not going to get any better,” Bynum said on Tuesday, explaining the wristband’s meaning. “You need to do more than other people are doing. You can’t just go to practice. You have to get extra routes after practice. You’ve got to get extra Jugs (machine passes), extra balls. That’s the only way you’re going to be better than your competition.”
When he arrived at UW in 2017, Bynum’s primary competition was his fellow Husky wide receivers. And, for two largely anonymous seasons, the former four-star prospect struggled to see the field.
“When I came up here for an unofficial (visit) I met JoJo McIntosh, and he was really treating me like his little brother,” Bynum said. “I was like, ‘Man, this is super tight.’ He shows me around to all the other guys on the team, and they’re all just like him. I knew, ‘Man, if I’m going to go somewhere, it’s got to be somewhere like that.’
“Not playing much my first two years here, that helped me out, being around people that are pretty similar to JoJo, because they kept my spirits high. I wasn’t able to get depressed. I made lifelong relationships with guys like that.”
McIntosh may be gone, but Bynum’s just getting going. In his first seven games in 2019, the Long Beach, Calif., product produced a grand total of three catches for 41 yards.
In his last two games, against premier Pac-12 opponents Oregon and Utah, Bynum has burst onto the scene with 13 catches for 111 yards.
But, don’t misunderstand: Bynum’s fire started burning long before you saw the smoke.
“It’s not (just) the last two weeks. I keep saying that. There’s a lot leading up to that,” UW coach Chris Petersen said on Monday. “Terrell’s been coming on strong. Terrell got a lot of meaningful reps last year, even though we didn’t throw him balls. Then he’s just continually building.
“We’ve had him in there a lot more. Earlier in the season the ball didn’t come his way as much. Now it’s just starting to come his way. You start to move a guy around a little bit to make the odds go in his favor. But he’s done a nice job for a long period of time, to tell you the truth, in terms of just getting better.”
Week by week, Bynum is getting better — and closer.
Or, to put it another way: Bynum’s game is getting louder.
“I thought his game was quiet at one point,” first-year UW wide-receivers coach Junior Adams said on Tuesday. “You can see now it’s not very quiet. He does all the little things right, you know what I mean? He puts himself in position. He studies.”
Hold on. Before we go any further, let’s clarify what “quiet” means.
“Sometimes you’d go out there and be like, ‘Was TB even here today?’ ” Adams continued. “It’s pretty cool in this profession to see guys like TB rising as the season goes on and taking advantage of opportunities. He deserves the position we put him in. He’s worked for that position and he’s really taken advantage of opportunities.”
In this case, statistics provide the proof. In his last two games, Bynum turned 17 targets into 13 receptions. He caught passes in tight windows, between defenders, pulling pigskins into his body before bracing for a blow.
“He’s really strong. He plays strong. He’s got strong hands,” Adams said of Bynum’s contested catches. “To me, it’s just concentration. I always say, ‘Hey, study the crosshairs and attack the crosshairs and snatch the football.’ TB really narrows his focus to the crosshairs.”
Added Bynum: “I feel like that was always one of the strengths of my game. It was just confidence (that I needed). Since I wasn’t getting many opportunities before, I was playing not to mess up. But now I’m playing to make the big play. So I just have to keep building off that.”
Building, burning, grinding, learning.
Of course, for Bynum, that’s nothing new.
“He works his butt off,” Adams said. “The thing that people don’t see with TB, too, is the guy plays special teams. We’ll go on an eight-play sequence, and next thing you know he’ll be the first running down the field on kickoff. Or he’ll be covering punts. He’s got that working mentality.”
For more than 1,800 days — five years — Bynum has been working, always with the same six words wrapped around his right wrist. If you look close, you’ll see the wristband on FS1 on Friday night, when 5-4 Washington travels to meet 4-4 Oregon State. The Beavs enter the game with a pass defense that ranks ninth in the Pac-12 in opponent yards per attempt (8.2), ninth in opponent passing touchdowns (18) and 10th in pass efficiency rating (153.46). The Huskies can’t counter with phenomenal freshman Puka Nacua, who will sit out his second consecutive game with a broken foot.
So, once again, Bynum will have his opportunities.
And, if all goes well, he’ll set Reser Stadium ablaze.
“Now I know that I have to keep going,” Bynum said. “Because before it was kind of like, ‘Is (the extra work) going to pay off?’ But now I see that it is, and I’ve got to keep going to get even better.”