RUSSIAVILLE - For years, Western High School fans watched Braeden Bryant sling the ball all over the field with tremendous success, but now there’s another Bryant under center for the Panthers who is winning games his own way.
Dylan Bryant didn’t plan on playing quarterback for the Panthers, but in the offseason, coach Alex Stewart approached him with an idea. Why not follow his brother’s footsteps, and leverage his dynamic running ability to lead the Panthers from the quarterback position? Bryant was all in, and so far, the experiment is working.
“It’s been really cool. I hadn’t even thought about playing quarterback since middle school, and they talked about it towards the end of last season. Then over the summer, Coach Stewart asked me if I wanted to compete for the position, and ever since then it’s been a work in progress,” Bryant said.
But there has been a lot of progress made. With Bryant taking snaps for the Panthers, the team is 3-2 so far in 2021. The senior has used his legs a lot, rushing for 811 yards and twelve touchdowns along with 281 passing yards and four touchdowns in four games.
In Western’s 49-42 win over New Castle, Bryant rushed for a whopping 276 yards and four touchdowns, while throwing for another 94 yards and two touchdowns. Bryant followed up that performance with another four rushing touchdowns against Hamilton Heights. Bryant relies on his legs more than Braeden did, he said. They are his safety nets, and he knows how to use them.
“My brother is more of the type to sit in the pocket and look down for his receivers. I don’t think he realized that he could use his legs as much, but last year we had a great receiving core and running backs, so he didn’t really need to use his legs as much. My legs are something that I’m more confident in,” Bryant said.
If it’s not broken, don’t fix it, Bryant said.
In Braeden’s senior year, he threw for 1,372 passing yards and 16 touchdowns, with only one interception to blemish his otherwise perfect season. He also rushed for 150 yards and three touchdowns.
Though Braeden is now in a quarterback competition at Wabash College, he’s still in Bryant’s ear about what he’s doing right, what he’s doing wrong, and how to handle the pressure every quarterback faces. He said it’s very cool and unique to watch his younger brother in the same position he was in last season.
“Oh yeah, I keep up with the Western team a lot. I came back for the West Lafayette game. I’m always texting my parents to see how he’s doing and checking Twitter to see how he’s doing. I know he’s one of the best athletes at that school and I know he’s going to shine,” Braeden said. “[I tell him] definitely to be confident in himself, and always stay positive even if something goes wrong. He’s the leader of that team so he’s got to keep his head high, and that will dictate how the rest of the team follows.”
Braeden said not to sleep on his legs either though. If Braeden breaks off for a run also, he’s going to make someone miss and take advantage of the situation, he said.
The Panthers’ Coach Stewart spoke highly of his new quarterback in the offseason, and loves the progress he’s seen in 2021.
“Dylan’s a real smart kid. He’s a great athlete. Braeden was a good runner but we didn’t run him a ton. They’re both really smart kids that have a good understanding of where everybody is supposed to be. Dylan especially is a kid that just has a knack for making plays,” Stewart said.
Bryant has the utmost confidence in his team this year, he said. Though the sectional is tough, Bryant believes Western can win out the rest of the season and make a run in the postseason.
In the first game loss against Kokomo, the defense played well but the offense was lacking, he said. In the second game the offense showed up but the defense didn’t play as well. In week three against West Lafayette, the team just laid an egg. But against New Castle, the team finally played completely together. This is the only recipe for success, he said, everyone showing up and playing for each other.
Stewart is a demanding coach with high expectations, Bryant said. He has a game plan each week, and once the team hits the field, it’s up to them, Bryant said.
“He holds you to a high standard. You have to be coachable. You have to want to be coached, and that’s the only way that it will work,” Bryant said. “He coaches us to perfection, so if all 11 of us are working at the same time, he coaches us up to do the right thing. Once it’s game time, it’s on us,” Bryant said.
Though Bryant is clearly having success as a quarterback at the high school level, Braeden is recruiting him to catch passes from him at Wabash next season. Bryant said he’ll either play college football or baseball, and although baseball was the plan originally, recently he’s felt some interest from football that is hard to ignore.
“I’m not going to throw any opportunity out the door,” Bryant said.
Braeden knows the success the brothers can have on the field if they reunite at Wabash. They have that “backyard football connection”, he said.
“I know him as a receiver, so I can always trust him. He’s always reliable, so I guess we have that connection that some receivers and quarterbacks don’t have,” Braeden said. “He’s come on visits here and me and him are close, so just playing together would be super fun.”
No decision has been made, and Bryant will continue to stack wins for the Panthers in the meantime. He’s focused on the present, he said, and that’s to continue to put on a show for Western and enjoy his senior season.
One quarterback brother has the arm, the other has the legs. If put together, the Bryants would create a near-unstoppable quarterback. But both have their own superpower, and the Western community is just enjoying the ride.