Ty Bryant knows he’s a legacy recruit, but his dad has never explicitly shown him why. Cisco Bryant, who played three seasons at wide receiver for Kentucky from 1983-85 under then-head coach Jerry Claiborne, could overwhelm his son with memories of the “good ole days” or enticing stories about the experience he had while playing for the blue and white, but he refuses to do so.
Like most parents, Cisco just wants what is best for his kid, but he doesn’t want to be the one to hold his hand forever. Whatever decisions Ty makes in life, his father will support him. If that means Ty follows in his father’s footsteps and joins the Kentucky Wildcats, so be it. But if not, nothing will change between the two.
A still-growing 6-foot, 175-pound product of the budding local football farm system that is Frederick Douglass High School, Ty Bryant is one of the most talented players in the Bluegrass State. Most outlets agree he’s a top-10 player across Kentucky out of the class of 2022, one with several offers from Divison I schools including the likes of Tennessee, Kansas, Cincinnati, West Virginia, and, of course, his hometown Wildcats. Both 247 Sports and Rivals have Bryant ranked as a three-star recruit and he was named an All-State defender in 2020. He was in contact with several other schools before the NCAA’s dead period came into play and slowed down any more potential offers from bigger programs.
As a junior during the 2020 season, Bryant, playing primarily as a defensive back, recorded 35 solo tackles and 47 total tackles in seven games played, including one tackle for loss, a pair of fumble recoveries, and one interception that was brought back for a 23-yard touchdown. He even filled in on special teams, as well, taking a kickoff return to the house for a score in his second-to-last game of the season.
Unlike his father, who is from Bowling Green, Ty is Lexington born and raised. Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops and, in particular, associate head coach Vince Marrow, have been following Bryant since he was a high school freshman. The relationship has only blossomed from there, with Bryant spending nearly every Saturday around the University during the 2019 football season. Had COVID-19 not ruined in-person recruiting the last 11 or so months, he probably would have done the same this past year.
Kentucky is perceived as the favorite to land Bryant for a few of the reasons listed above, but it’s not as straightforward as it seems on the surface. He plans on putting out a top 5 list of potential choices here soon and is open to the idea of another school jumping into his recruitment late. Bryant doesn’t plan on setting a commitment date anytime soon, especially since he’ll be playing baseball this summer. NCAA dead period rules have prevented other programs from getting to really know him as a person and football player. Taking into account the extra year of eligibility granted to all student-athletes, scholarship numbers are likely going to be tighter than normal, which could hurt a player like Ty who is still looking to impress the elite programs.
For right now, Ty is just working with what he’s got. In the near future, the Bryant son-and-father duo intends on sitting down and diving into the final list–but don’t expect Cisco to push for the ‘Cats. In fact, he’s not so much as let his son get ahold of an old scrapbook.
“We have not talked about it [going to Kentucky], at all,” Cisco Bryant told KSR. “When I say, that people are shocked. Ty has never seen my scrapbook when I played there. He has never heard me tell a story about me playing. If you came to the house, there’s no pictures up of me playing. I have never said ‘Ty, I did this’. Now he may look it up or someone may tell him, but him and I have never really sat down and talked about the University of Kentucky.”
Cisco Bryant caught 29 passes for six touchdowns during his three-year run with Kentucky in the mid-80s. In his first season with the ‘Cats, Bryant finished fifth in the SEC in receiving touchdowns with four. He’s a well-known figure in Lexington who has previously spent time as an assistant football coach for Bryan Station High School.
Ty knows where his dad stands on Kentucky, but his dad has a more definitive stance on his son’s recruitment as a whole. Cisco has seen other parents push their kids to pick certain schools for personal reasons, rather than letting the kids make the decision for themselves. It’s why he doesn’t show pictures or articles of himself playing football to Ty, and also to help keep any unnecessary pressure as far away as possible. Only now, heading into Ty’s junior season, are the two beginning to break down what the ‘Cats can bring to the table.
“I’m just letting Ty do him…” Cisco Bryant said. “He knows I’m UK, he knows that. I graduated there, I played there, I’m Big Blue Nation without any question. What I’ve done is, when I started coaching, I saw a lot of guys my age who already had kids start pushing them and pushing them. I chose not to do that to my son. I did not want to push him like that. We’re now starting, now that’s he a junior, to say this is what UK was about when I went there.”
Ty agreed that he and his dad have a mutual understanding regarding his recruitment.
“He wants me to go wherever best fits me and he understands that,” Ty Bryant told KSR. “Even though he wants Kentucky, if I choose to go there he would love it, but he wants me to go wherever I feel best at. So we don’t really talk about me going to Kentucky a lot, we just talk about my recruitment as a whole.”
On the field, Bryant dabbles with multiple positions. He’s being recruited by Kentucky and others to play defensive back at the next level and that’s what he would personally like to play, but his head coach at Frederick Douglass, Nathan McPeek, might have other plans for the upcoming season. Bryant’s versatility and athleticism are what makes him such a tantalizing prospect–he doesn’t fit into one perfect mold, and that’s not a bad thing by any means.
“He could play receiver at the next level,” Coach McPeek told KSR about Ty. “I don’t know that’s what he’ll do because he’s been predominantly a defensive player his whole career. But he’s an explosive athlete. We have him in our return game, he had some returned kicks for touchdowns this year and we used him some at receiver last year. We didn’t do it much this year because of our COVID restrictions, we didn’t really flip too many guys over unless we had to.”
The lack of tape on the offensive side of the ball from this past season likely means Bryant will continue to be recruited as a corner or safety, but as Kentucky fans know, the program has a habit of taking out-of-position players and making the situation work. McPeek is even toying with the idea of playing him out of the backfield on third-downs or shifting him some to receiver.
That being said, Bryant is already a highly-regarded player on the defensive end, not to mention his impressive 4.5-second 40-yard dash time.
“He’s got confidence in his ability,” McPeek, who has coached Kentucky high school football since 2004, added. “He thinks highly of his dad and he’s got a great family. Ty has a lot of self-confidence about himself. He thinks he’s the best guy on our team, which we’re blessed with a lot of skill players so it’s a battle every day in practice. But he thinks he’s the best and can line up against the Dane Key’s and Dekel[Crowdus]’s of the word and win every rep. That’s just kinda how he is. In my 18 years of coaching, he’s one of the best open-field tacklers I’ve ever seen and had that I’ve coached. Just a really really good instinctive football player and really good in the open field.”
Wherever Ty Bryant does decide to play college football, they’ll be getting an impressive athlete no matter what. The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has stunted his recruiting process a bit and he can’t take new visits for at least another few months, but the programs after him right now–Kentucky included–know his value and potential.
Coach Marrow has already helped secure 2021 prospects Jager Burton and Dekel Crowdus as commitments from the Frederick Douglass pipeline and he has his sights set on adding at least one more, if not two, from the local school. Douglass is also home to a four-star wide-receiver from the same 2022 class as Bryant, Dane Key, who is another recruit hot on the Kentucky radar.
The opportunity for Bryant to start his own legacy is available no matter which path he takes. His dad has laid the groundwork for him to make a smooth transition if he does choose Kentucky, and at the same time, any other college choice would be a step in creating his own unique legacy.
“Truthfully, I hope he does [pick Kentucky]. I mean, what dad wouldn’t want that?” Cisco Bryant said. “But just like any other dad, it doesn’t matter if you’re a doctor or lawyer, you just want your kid to grow up being successful, and that’s the truth. Don’t think it’s not a dream of mine, because it is. But I don’t want my son to live my dream. I want him to live his dream. If his dream is go to UK and play at UK, I’m all for it. If his dream is to go to Cincinnati, I’m all for it. That’s my son.”