Like most kids in Alabama, Cam Bright had a choice to make.
Alabama or Auburn.
“Roll Tide” or “War Eagle”.
Even now, years later, his loyalty is clear.
“War eagle,” UW’s transfer linebacker said Monday with a grin, repeating it again for added emphasis.
But when Bright graduated from Park Crossing High School in Montgomery, Alabama, in 2017, that interest wasn’t reciprocated. Despite accumulating 131 tackles, 23 tackles for loss and a state-high 16.5 sacks in his senior season, the undersized linebacker and three-star recruit’s list of offers consisted of Pittsburgh, Bowling Green, Miami (Ohio) and Georgia State.
No reddish brown. No “war eagle”.
No Alabama or Georgia or Florida or LSU or Tennessee. No SEC.
Instead, Bright signed with Pittsburgh in 2017 and went on to become the team captain and ACC champion. He has 182 tackles and 20.5 tackles for losses in 51 games — including 58 tackles, 6.5 tackles for losses and 3.5 sacks in 2021. And as he entered the transfer portal this offseason, Auburn professed — alongside many other – interest.
“I was upset when I got out of high school that I didn’t get those kinds of[local SEC]offers,” he said. “But when I entered the portal, all these schools turned me on. So it felt good that I could fix a broken part of my past.”
This time Bright Auburn declined.
“I couldn’t have enrolled[in Auburn]until the summer,” Bright said, explaining why he didn’t move closer to home. “UW was one of the few schools that I was able to enroll in in the spring, acclimate to the culture and the playbook, and learn.”
Bright has had a lot to learn since arriving in Seattle the week before spring training. But UW’s quartering system — as well as the lack of linebackers — weren’t the only factors sealing the deal.
“The relationship with (co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach William) Inge and (head coach Kalen) DeBoer,” he said when asked why he chose Washington. “They were by far the most consistent coaches who kept in touch and were really genuine.”
For both sides, the appeal is obvious. Jackson Sirmon – who led the Huskies in 2021 with 92 tackles – joined Cal this winter, while returning starter Edefuan Ulofoshio suffered a serious injury that could also cost him games this fall. That left UW with four remaining fellows — Carson Bruener, Daniel Heimuli and Alphonzo Tuputala sophomores, and Demario King, the junior from Cerritos College.
UW’s linebacker room lacked production — and leadership.
“The most important thing was leadership,” said Inge of the decision to hire Bright. “When you have someone who has been voted captain by your team, you know that person has put some sweat into their program and has done the things necessary to be the leader. So that was #1 (plus). Then when you watch the film, you see that he’s definitely doing the jobs that we want from that particular position in our system.”
Bright added: “I saw a new coaching staff coming in so I felt like I could come in and help guide them. Because I take pride in my leadership and hold people accountable, and people hold me accountable.
If you watch the film, you see physicality – an undersized frame with an aggressive stance. Bright said on Monday: “I’m trying to beat the biggest guy on the field so they know maybe I’m small but I’m not small.
“I love the contact. I like to be physical. That’s how I got the linebacker position. It’s always been linebacker and running back, but I’d rather score than receive a hit.”
Even in training, Bright has used those strikes to announce his presence – and earn the respect of his teammates.
“We do what we call ‘shout-outs’ at the end of every Friday,” DeBoer said last week. “Cam Bright received some praise from his team-mates today who spoke about how physical he was and how hard he plays and how he learns defense very quickly – considering he didn’t have the time to learn it over the winter and to have Personal time that you would like.
“So he did a great job. I really think he adds and brings a lot to our program.”
He may have a lot to offer considering Washington’s terrible run defense last fall. In a season that began with a No. 20 national ranking and ended with a 4-8 record and two season layoffs, UW finished 10thth in Pac-12 in opposing yards per carry (4.76) and 11th on fast defense (194 yards allowed per game). Defensive defenders Trent McDuffie, Kyler Gordon and Brendan Radley-Hiles led one of the best pass defenses in the nation … nullified by a front seven that couldn’t consistently stop the run.
Alongside Bruener and (hopefully) Ulofoshio, Bright is asked to lower the boom at a fairly unknown location. The sixth-year senior, who played primarily as a full-back at Pitt, said UW’s defense is “very different — from the coverages to the running passes to the scheme. It’s a lot different, but I like it. I like being in the box and being more physical. It simply means more post-workout recovery. I’m a little more agitated.”
Time will tell if the 6-foot, 219-pound Bright can handle a more strenuous workload…as well as Washington’s unpredictable weather.
While it rained lightly at Husky Stadium, the transplant from Alabama joked Monday, “Man, it’s cold. I found it warm – what you see on TV. In my head, I saw California and LA.” Having never been to Seattle prior to an unseasonably warm weekend this winter, he added, “The weather tricked me on my visit.”
It’s not Auburn or Alabama.
But Bright is backing himself again.
“It was good (winning an ACC title in Pitt last fall) because I didn’t win a state championship in high school,” he said. “To get one of these, not everyone can say they’ve done that in their sporting career. I just feel like I can bring a piece of that championship culture here and introduce it to the guys.”
- Linebacker Carson Bruener, husky Dominique Hampton and cornerback Elijah Jackson returned to practice Monday after enduring Friday’s scrimmage with what DeBoer called “small improvements.” Running back Caleb Berry also made his debut this spring. Cornerback Jordan Perryman and safety Vince Nunley sat out a second straight practice session.
- DeBoer announced Friday that the April 30 Spring Preview will not be a full scrimmage because UW lacks sufficient depth at both the linebacker and running back. “But I want it to be a great atmosphere,” he said. “This place loves its ball and we’re looking forward to two weeks of continuing to get better at bringing a great product to the pitch and having fun.”
- Former UW offensive coordinator John Donovan, who was fired Nov. 7 after 13 games, was hired Monday as a senior analyst by the Pittsburgh Packers.