ST. AUGUSTINE – At Menendez High School, a decade-old program sitting off of State Road 206, about 10 miles south of the nation’s oldest city, head coach Keith Cromwell heads into the 2010 season with the first two Division I prospects in the history of the school.
After qualifying for the FHSAA Class 3A state playoffs a year ago, the Falcons are aiming even higher in 2010. But for now, as the spring comes to an end, Cromwell is just happy he has a pair of grounded – albeit talented – prospects in linebacker Tony Steward (6-1, 220) and defensive lineman Ryan Bryson (6-3, 265) as Menendez takes on Keystone Heights Friday night.
“Besides their physical football ability, their best attributes are their character and their attitude,” Cromwell said of Steward and Bryson. “They truly represent the student-athlete. Their leadership is phenomenal for the type of players they are.”
Standing 6-foot-3 and weighing in these days at over 260 pounds, Ryan Bryson will be a huge part of the success of the Menendez defense this coming season. Although most schools coming through St. Augustine these days have done so to check in with Tony Steward, Bryson is starting to pick up considerable attention from schools as well. However, he is still trying to keep his focus firmly on the present and with the goals the Falcons are trying to achieve in 2010.
“The recruiting process is going pretty well,” Bryson said. “But like my teammate Tony (Steward) said, I’m just trying to stay focused on high school and finish this thing out first, before I look too far ahead.”
A few offers have come through for Bryson—Memphis, Troy and Western Kentucky have all extended scholarship opportunities to the talented prospect, who has a bench press maximum of 315 pounds, can squat upward to 375 points and has been timed in the 40 as low as 4.9 seconds. Now, with a slight position change on the horizon, Bryson might be in line to pick up even more offers this fall.
“Ryan is a true defensive lineman,” Cromwell said of Bryson. “We played him at defensive end last year, but we’re going to move him inside to tackle this year. That’s what he’s going to play on the next level. He keeps getting bigger and stronger. He’s going to be pushing 300 pounds by the end of next year, I think.”
While Bryson is happy with the offers he has picked up so far, he hopes to make some trips around the state to potentially pick up some other scholarship opportunities from schools looking to add a big body along the defensive line.
“I’m still open to the process,” Bryson said of the teams recruiting him. “I want to see what else is out there.”
One of the stops Bryson will make this summer is in Gainesville, to check out the University of Florida. Bryson previously camped at Florida last summer, and was pleased with what he saw and learned during his stay with the Gators.
“It was pretty good to see the high tempo that the coaches there expect at the next level,” Bryson said of his stay at Florida last summer. “It’s a much faster pace over there.”
Despite playing in just seven games last year for Menendez, Bryson still managed to record approximately 50 tackles – with six being for a loss behind the line of scrimmage. As Keith Cromwell points out, there’s a reason his top defensive lineman can have such an impact on defense for the Falcons.
“He stays low and powers over people,” Cromwell said of Bryson. “He really does a good job for us up front.”