A ‘culture changer’, Seahawks CB Coby Bryant in good company with Jim Thorpe award
When the Seahawks used their fourth-round pick 109th overall on cornerback Coby Bryant, they selected the winner of the 2021 Jim Thorpe Award. Since 1986, this prestigious honor chosen by the Sports Hall of Fame of Oklahoma recognizes the top defensive back in college football for this season.
Interestingly, Bryant won the award over Cincinnati teammate Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, who was taken fourth overall by the Jets in the first round. Gardner certainly generated more buzz and hype ahead of the draft and that’s understandable. At 6-foot-3 with a speed of 4.4, he has all the traits you want in an NFL corner.
Along with Gardner, Derek Stingley was picked third overall by the Texans an earlier pick after a solid career at LSU. However, the injuries piled up for him and he didn’t play a full season after his proper first year in 2019.
With Gardner and Stingley being the top two cornerbacks on the board, Bryant was the 12th cornerback drafted despite his outstanding performance at the college level. Somehow, NFL teams thought there were 11 cornerbacks better than the 2021 Jim Thorpe Award winner, though he wasn’t surprised or deterred from falling in the third day.
“Not necessarily, all I need is just one lane,” Bryant told reporters Saturday after learning he was drafted by Seattle. . It was up to me to seize this opportunity once it presented itself.”
Obviously, this particular award isn’t given to the cornerback who projects to be the NFL’s best player or who lights up the tests on the combine or the pro day. He is handed out to the top scoring corner in college football. However, based on past winners’ performances at the senior level, Bryant projects well as an NFL player.
Several great NFL defensive backs are former Jim Thorpe Award winners. All-Pro safeties Malcolm Jenkins and Eric Berry won it in 2008 and 2009 respectively. Eight-time Pro Bowl cornerback Patrick Peterson won the award in 2010.
Even former winners who didn’t become Pro Bowlers have carved out solid careers. Of the 13 winners before Bryant since 2008, 12 have played at least one full season of games in the NFL. Nine have appeared in at least 50 NFL games.
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The fact that the committee picked Bryant as the winner instead of some of the biggest named top-notch corners in this class says a lot about him. For some corners of this class, they burst onto the scene with a mammoth season in college and earned all the hype and praise that comes with it. For Bryant, it was a slow burn in a stellar career in Cincinnati.
First, Bryant was an impact player for five years for the Bearcats, taking full advantage of the extra year of eligibility due to COVID. He played through a number of injuries throughout his college career, displaying his toughness. He led the Bearcats in interceptions and passes defended in 2020. In his last four seasons, he produced nine interceptions and 26 pass breakups.
Last season, in addition to his excellent productivity against Gardner, Bryant was named team captain. There’s something to be said for a player who worked his way up the system for five years, became a captain and won a national award in his senior year.
Bryant is now looking to become the next in a long line of Thorpe Award winners in the NFL. Seahawks general manager John Schneider gave the new corner a rave review when he spoke to reporters at the end of day three of the 2022 NFL Draft.
“Coby was also very attached as a pro, especially in the Senior Bowl,” Schneider said. “And then all the guys that went to school, everything he got from the coaching staff and everything, they called him the culture changer.”
Regularly grilled by quarterbacks over the past few seasons, the Seahawks definitely need a boost in the pass defense department. Bryant will try to bring the defense back to the “Legion of Boom” days he grew up idolizing.
“I watched these guys growing up, they were actually my favorite DB band growing up. They’re kind of like my guys that I always used to look up to and look up to.”
While rookie camp is scheduled to begin this weekend, Bryant’s next step will be to compete for a starting role in Seattle’s secondary this fall. If his past is any indication, as the franchise aims to get back in the game, he will be an integral part of those efforts on and off the field.