Coby Bryant has made a name for himself in a Bearcats’ uniform.
Bryant has been named to the American Athletic Conference’s First-Team in back-to-back years, and in 2021, was named the Jim Thorpe Award winner, an honor given to the top defensive back in college football.
But on Friday, he’ll be representing the player for whom he was named: Kobe Bryant. The Lakers legend died in a helicopter crash along with seven others, including his daughter, Gianna, in January 2020.
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During No. 4 Cincinnati’s Cotton Bowl Classic matchup against No. 1 Alabama, Coby Bryant will wear No. 8 instead of his usual No. 7 to honor his namesake.
Named after Kobe Bryant
The identical-sounding name is no coincidence: Coby Bryant is named for Kobe Bryant, just with a different spelling.
According to The Cincinnati Enquirer, his parents changed the spelling of the name so he could shape his own legacy.
“I’m very grateful for my name,” Coby Bryant told The Enquirer.
Coby Bryant has worn No. 7 throughout his Bearcats’ career, but decided to change it to No. 8 for the CFP semifinal game against Alabama. While with the Lakers, Kobe Bryant wore both No. 8 and No. 24. Ahead of the CFP matchup, Coby Bryant told The Enquirer that he wanted to “go vintage Kobe” and “bring that playoff mentality.”
Coby Bryant told reporters ahead of the game that he was named after Kobe Bryant “for a reason” and that he carries the “Mamba Mentality” on to this day, according to ESPN.
“I always go back to the famous quote from Kobe Bryant: ‘The job is not finished,'” Coby Bryant said, according to ESPN. “And that goes from Day 1 to now. We have to stay hungry.”
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Is Coby Bryant related to Kobe Bryant?
Coby Bryant is not related to Kobe Bryant, but he does have some athletic family ties.
Coby Bryant’s older brother, safety Christian Bryant, appeared in 12 games in the NFL and spent several other seasons on the practice squad for other teams. Christian Bryant was drafted in the seventh round by the St. Louis Rams in 2014. He appeared in nine games for St. Louis in 2015 and appeared in three the next season for the Cardinals. He spent time on the practice squads of the Giants, Cardinals again and Browns before briefly joining the Birmingham Iron of the Alliance of American Football.
Christian Bryant, like his younger brother, also had experience playing under Luke Fickell. Christian Bryant went to Ohio State from 2010 through 2013. During that time, Fickell was the co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach and was the interim head coach in 2011.
Coby Bryant NFL draft projection
Cincinnati will be taking a major hit in its cornerback depth after the 2021 season officially concludes. Coby Bryant and Ahmad Gardner are both leaving, with Bryant a redshirt senior and out of remaining eligibility and Gardner likely to leave early as a projected first-round pick.
Coby Bryant has been a star corner for the Bearcats, particularly over the past two years, as he has recorded six interceptions, 18 passes defended and three forced fumbles in 2020 and 2021. Pro Football Focus graded him as having been tied for the ninth-best defensive grade among FBS cornerbacks at 86.3, the highest of any cornerback in the College Football Playoff.
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Safe to say, he’s had plenty of NFL eyes watching him play. ESPN’s Mel Kiper has him listed as his 10th corner in the 2022 draft class. Gardner and Bryant will have their work cut out for them defending Biletnikoff Award finalist Jameson Williams.