McNeese State safety Ryan Bronson. (Rick Hickman / American Press)
Last Modified: Tuesday, August 13, 2013 5:40 PM
Ryan Bronson isn’t playing the role of little brother anymore.
For the greater part of the last four seasons — one as a redshirt and three as a backup — he was looking up to his older brother Malcolm, one of McNeese State’s stars.
Things changed last year when Malcolm was lost for the season to a knee injury, thrusting Ryan into an unexpected starting role after the season’s third week. But even in that scenario, Malcolm was still around to lean on for advice.
That won’t be the case this fall. Malcolm is in camp with the Kansas City Chiefs, trying to bounce back from his injury and pursue an NFL dream. For the first time, Ryan will be on his own.
“It’s different,” he said. “But that’s the life cycle. It keeps going.”
But the younger Bronson is ready.
“Ryan’s come a long way and gained a lot of confidence,” said coach Matt Viator. “It was unfortunate that his brother got hurt last year. But I think he got some much-needed experience in playing, and you can tell he’s a lot more confident back there.”
For Ryan, this season marks a transition from follower to leader. Along with fellow senior safety Terence Cahee, Bronson represents the last line of the Cowboy defense.
“We have a closer bond, because we redshirted together. We actually got our ‘redshirt speech’ together,” Bronson said of Cahee. “But we also have a good bond with the young ones. We’ve been there before, so we can kind of relate to what they are feeling and have a little bit of better advice to tell them.”
Viator said Bronson’s added confidence is vital to his success at free safety, where a moment’s hesitation can mark the difference between breaking up a play and getting burned.
“You can tell now — he takes control, which the free safety needs to with the secondary coverages and when we switch coverages,” Viator said. “Sometimes it just takes getting the opportunity to play. I think he came into the spring with confidence and seems even more confident this fall.”
Cahee, who lines up on the opposite hash mark of Bronson, has seen that growth.
“It’s amazing. I started the first couple games with Malcolm last year, and Ryan had really not gotten (first-team) reps up until that time,” Cahee said. “He just came in and battled. He comes to work every day. He’s not the biggest, strongest or fastest. But he’s a competitor. He’s somebody you want on your side.”
The leadership of Bronson and Cahee will be just as crucial to the Cowboys as their playmaking ability. All of the other safeties on the roster are sophomores or younger.
“It wasn’t too long ago that we were the young guys in their shoes behind Darrell (Jenkins) and Malcolm,” Cahee said. “We can still remember so we try to help them as much as possible. One, by showing them what to do, and two, when we correct them we don’t get on their butt in a negative way. We try to influence them positively.”