Forty-four has to show up.
Brendan “Bookie” Radley-Hiles did just that at Bishop Gorman High School, then at IMG Academy, then as a three-year starter for the Oklahoma Sooners – where he made 115 tackles, defended 14 passes, nine tackles for loss and three interceptions in 35 career games (and 32 starts).
In March, the 5-foot-9, 180-pound defensive back came to Seattle as a graduate transfer with two seasons, a playoff pedigree and much to prove.
“To be completely honest, I have to earn my speaking rights,” said Radley-Hiles after Washington’s 52-3 victory over the state of Arkansas. “I’m not a person who comes in here and pretends to know things better on this defensive than this team.
“So, to be completely honest, in my first week or two here, I didn’t mean to say too much. I wanted to find my role in this team and be up to the situation. Younger people would come and ask me questions about things, and I would have one-on-one interviews. But as for persuasion and things like that, no. I had to grow into this role. “
Second year cornerback Trent McDuffie added, “He’s very humble and he’s only there to work. As one of the first conversations we had, he came in and said, ‘You know, I’m only here to develop the culture and learn.’ He’s not here to show off. He’s not coming in here because he thinks he’s that great player. He’s only here to develop his game so that when he goes to the NFL he’ll be good. “
Radley-Hiles gets there through three games. Last Saturday, he led the Huskies with nine tackles, two tackles for loss, a sack, a fumble recovery and a pass breakup in a 52-3 win over Arkansas State.
And he did so in what is perhaps UW’s most demanding defensive position, where Elijah Molden and Myles Bryant both previously starred.
“It’s a lot of responsibility,” said Radley-Hiles of the Nickelback role. “But if you plan in the lessons, you are ready for it. So anyone who plays the nickel position at the University of Washington must invest real hours. Your preparation, your film studies, your communication … a lot goes through you. So you can’t have any mistakes. There is no room for mistakes. “
In his first three games – in a defense that ranked second nationwide in opposing passing efficiency rating (80.45), second in opposing yards per pass attempt (4.2), third in opposing completion rate (47.1%) ) and the fourth in the pass defense (123 yards) per game) – the mistakes became fewer and fewer.
“He’s played better (every game) from Game 1 to Game 3 and I guess he’ll be playing his best football this Saturday because he’s hungry,” said UW head coach Jimmy Lake. “He wants it. He’s really smart. He has good (soccer) know-how. He is very conscious of football.
“And it’s fun to watch his eyes open when we tell him another detail. “Well, when you see that, you can do this.” It’s cool to interact. He just says, ‘Coach, I’ve never heard coaching points like this before.’ And then you have film to back it up. And then he gets to see the film and how it should be made. So his game will keep going up as long as he’s working on it, and I know he’s going to work on it. This guy loves soccer and I’m glad he’s a dawg. “
But is “Bookie” – who left an Oklahoma program 3-0 and ranks fourth nationwide with four college football playoff appearances since 2015 – just as satisfied with the huskies’ 1-2 start?
On Saturday he folded his hands – each finger was individually glued – to demonstrate the solidarity of his new team.
“You still have to stick together,” said Radley-Hiles. “Things happen. Life happens. But stay together, period. This team stayed together. This team proves week after week, day after day in practice that we know how to stay together – regardless of outside noise, regardless of everything, what weed out internally. This group stays together, and I love that. “
He added: “I think every goal we scored in the preseason – before the season – is ahead of us. I think this group comes together day by day. I think we grow as men. I think we are growing as football players. I’m really looking forward to the future with this team. “
That future includes a primetime Pac-12 prelude against Cal on Saturday night. It includes showdowns with conference attendees UCLA, Oregon, and Arizona State at Husky Stadium. It includes street games in Stanford and Colorado, two teams that led Washington in 2019. It includes the first Radley-Hiles Apple Cup on November 26th.
There are plenty of opportunities in it, even in spite of UW’s 1-2 start.
“Now it’s about results,” said Radley-Hiles. “You have to show up. Forty-four has to show up, and if he doesn’t show up, he doesn’t deserve to talk like that. Period. I have to make sure I do what I say. The results have to be there first. “
The results have to be there – for his team and for his brother.
In 1995, Brandon Webb – Bookie’s older brother – was shot dead in a drug fight he was not involved in, less than two months before his college football career at Grambling State was due to begin.
The bookmaker was born four years after Brandon’s death, with their birthdays being four days apart.
That’s why Bookie wears 44.
“If you ever see a picture of my brother, he looks just like me,” Radley-Hiles said last Saturday. “Our mannerisms are the same. We kind of talk the same way. Our mentality is the same. So I feel like my brother in a way. I feel like I’m living like him. That’s 44 for me. “