RENTON — Seahawks rookie cornerback Coby Bryant’s name has always had a dual purpose.
His parents actually named him after legendary basketball player Kobe Bryant, but purposely gave him a different spelling so he could have, as he explained, “my own journey.” It was an honor to be named after a legend and my hero. But they just wanted me to have my own name and represent my name as best I could.”
So Bryant usually had his own number throughout his sporting career. He wore the No. 7 for most of last season at the University of Cincinnati, where he won the Jim Thorpe Award for top college football cornerback.
During his youth sports career, he said the only time he wore one of the numbers that made Kobe Bryant famous during his NBA career was when he wore the number 24 while playing baseball as an 11- and 12-year-old.
But now that he’s achieved his goal of making it to the NFL — having undoubtedly created his own legacy — Bryant is embracing his namesake’s honor even more.
Bryant said Saturday after attending the second practice session of the Seahawks’ three-day rookie minicamp that he had planned to ask the team if he could have the No. 8 jersey when he arrived.
Turns out he didn’t have to bother.
“That was actually the plan to ask about it in my rookie year,” Bryant said. “But then they just offered it to me. So it was like God’s plan from the jump. When I (the team) asked me if I would wear it, I said, “Absolutely, no question.”
Bryant wore the number 8 one more time in his soccer career and asked if he could switch from the number 7 for Cincy’s game against Alabama at the Cotton Bowl last December. He said, “I realized I wanted to do something different and go to the Kobe playoffs.”
Bryant could not have worn the No. 8 in the NFL before the league changed the uniform rules last season, allowing defenders to wear any number from 1 through 49 (previously, DBs had to wear numbers 20 through 49).
He couldn’t have worn it with the Seahawks last year either, as it was worn by defensive end Carlos Dunlap, who was released in March and made it available.
Bryant says the name — and presumably the number — isn’t pressure, but “more of a privilege” and something that makes him “have to work twice as hard to live up to it.”
Just trying to break through as a rookie in the NFL is pressure enough. But if first impressions are anything, maybe Bryant can live up to it.
“Coby Bryant had a really nice first day,” said Seahawks coach Pete Carroll Friday after the first mini-camp practice. “(He) really is an accomplished college boy coming out. He just seems comfortable. He gets it, he gets it.”
On Saturday, during a full team session, Bryant displayed the instincts the team has touted as he stepped in front of a pass near the touchline. He couldn’t quite control it, the ball slipped out of his hands as he realized it was a drop he should have had.
But as he also pointed out, technically he shouldn’t be holding the ball in the first place. With players off the pads, defenders should not make plays on the ball.
Bryant said it was not his fault in this case.
“As a competitor that I am, the first thing I try to do is go to the ball,” Bryant said.
He’s done that well enough to have nine interceptions and 35 pass defenses in his last four full seasons with Cincy as the Bearcats went 4-8 in his freshman season on 11, 11, nine and 13 wins.
He was widely praised for his leadership at Cincy and was named team captain as a senior. Seahawks general manager John Schneider said coaches there called him “the culture changer.”
Because of that, the Seahawks couldn’t have been happier to see Bryant — who had some mock drafts progressed to the second round — still available at pick 109 in the fourth round last Saturday, a pick they were part of from got trade with Jamal Adams. That it was considered a deep cornerback class no doubt helped keep Bryant’s name still on the board.
The Seahawks’ cornerback situation means Bryant will be given every opportunity to break into the immediate game time.
The Seahawks gave DJ Reed free reign, where he signed a three-year contract with the Jets worth up to $33 million. This meant that none of the team’s two starting positions stayed on the way to camp. The Seahawks are hoping for 2021 draft pick Tre Brown to make a full recovery from a knee injury that ended his season last November, and they signed former UW star Sidney Jones and 2016 Steelers first-round pick Artie Burns and drew Tariq Woolen with 153 overall to fill out his cornerback corps
Brown impressed in three starts at left cornerback last year, and if he’s healthy he could be the leader going into camp at this point.
Bryant played there on Saturday.
It’s a new role, having played with Cincy as a field corner or on the wide side of the field, meaning he could line up on either side depending on the game. Now he will stay to one side.
He’s at least something of a step ahead in another thing the Seahawks are asking their cornerbacks to do. He said he was “extremely familiar” with the famous “step-kick” technique, in which corners line up close to the line of scrimmage and step sideways on the snap to read the receiver’s movement before he steps back in the direction the receiver takes off.
“We did that in Cincinnati, too,” Bryant said. “…So it’s just about getting to the next level and being the dominant cornerback that I hope I can be and that I’m proud of.”