He’s one of the greatest players at his position. His opponents fear him and his peers aspire to be like him. He’s also trying to lead his team to a championship. This player in question is Coby Bryant, and no, that’s not a misprint.
Bryant is a star defensive back for the Cincinnati Bearcats, and he has quickly become one of the best cornerbacks in all of college football. His play has even helped Cincy make history this year, as the program became the first Group of Five school to earn a spot in the College Football Playoff.
But while Bryant prepares to hopefully lead his team to a championship, he’s also trying to channel his namesake. Yes, that happens to be NBA legend Kobe Bryant.
Coby Bryant has become one of the best cornerbacks in the country for the Cincinnati Bearcats
Elite teams typically have numerous stars on their roster, and that has certainly been the case for the Bearcats, specifically when it comes to Coby Bryant.
Bryant made his way to UC in 2017, playing in every game as a true freshman. He then became the team’s starting cornerback in 2018, in which he had 33 total tackles and two interceptions.
He was just getting started, though.
The Cleveland native has since developed into one of the best corners in America. After helping lead Cincinnati to an 11-win season in 2019 with 54 total tackles and nine defended passes, he then had a stellar year in 2020 with 35 total tackles, four interceptions, and 11 defended passes in a COVID-19 shortened campaign.
At that point, he had already proven he was an NFL talent. But due to the COVID-19 pandemic affecting the 2020 season, he decided to use his extra season of eligibility to chase a championship with the Bearcats in 2021.
It proved to be the correct decision, too.
Bryant, who also plays with Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, another one of the country’s top corners, earned the Jim Thorpe Award this year. The recognition goes to the nation’s best defensive back. Coby recorded 41 total tackles, three interceptions, 14 defended passes, and three forced fumbles in the regular season.
Now, he hopes to honor his namesake the best way he can.
Coby Bryant is looking to channel Kobe Bryant in the College Football Playoff
No, Coby Bryant isn’t related to the NBA legend and Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant. But he is, in fact, named after the former Los Angeles Lakers star.
According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, the football-playing Bryant said his parents were fans of the Black Mamba, so they decided to name their son after him. But they wanted Coby to have his own legacy, so they went with a different spelling.
Now, ahead of UC’s College Football Playoff semifinal matchup with the Alabama Crimson Tide, Coby received permission to honor his namesake.
The Bearcats star has worn No. 7 at Cincinnati since 2018, but he plans to wear No. 8, which Kobe wore at the beginning of his pro career, in the CFP.
“I just try to represent him as well as I can,” Coby recently said, per WCPO of Cincinnati. “The best way is to put the number 8 on. I took it back to vintage Kobe.”
One would think that changing your number at this point in the season could be difficult, but the corner said he discussed it with Cincinnati head coach Luke Fickell in what he described as a “pretty smooth” conversation.
“It’s a blessing to wear number 8,” Coby said, per WCPO. “I appreciate coach [Luke Fickell] allowing me to wear it, and him understanding why I was doing it.”
However, it’s now time for him to channel Mamba and what he did best: win.
The name on the front of their jerseys may have people believing that the Bearcats have no shot at winning in the College Football Playoff. But they actually have a great chance to shock the world due to the names on their backs.
Cincinnati is loaded, and its defense has NFL talent all across the field, starting with guys like Bryant, Gardner, defensive lineman Curtis Brooks, linebacker Joel Dublanko, and others. However, it also has some stars offensively. Desmond Ridder has proven to be one of the best quarterbacks in the country, and running back Jerome Ford has had a breakout year after transferring to Cincinnati from Alabama before the 2020 season. The Bearcats also have several other weapons, including Alec Pierce and Josh Whyle.
All in all, Cincinnati will have its hands full against Alabama in the semifinal and potentially against Georgia or Michigan in the championship game. But (like his namesake) those are the moments Coby Bryant has been at his best: whenever his team is counted out.
Stats courtesy of Cincinnati Athletics
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