The Los Angeles Rams have this rare and unique opportunity in 15 days: Add another “Black Mamba” to the City of Angels.
The late Kobe Bryant popularized the nickname for two decades in L.A.: Guiding five NBA Finals championships for the Los Angeles Lakers while establishing himself as a sports and global icon. Since then, L.A. star athletes — notably Super Bowl 56 Most Valuable Player Cooper Kupp and his Rams teammate Odell Beckham — have honored the legend by channeling their own “mamba mentality” before crucial games.
But now, Pro Football Focus on Monday, April 11 mentioned one of the “best case scenarios” for teams that don’t hold a first-round draft selection including the Rams — who don’t hold a pick until the third round. And one name PFF mentioned for the Rams? A defender named after the legendary basketball star.
Prospect Also Switched his Number to 8 Before Biggest Game of His Career
Noted by Ari Meirov of Pro Football Focus, the 2022 NFL Draft features three aspiring pro football players who share similar names to NBA legends, including two with ties to L.A.
Yes, the latter prospect has a similar name to the iconic Bryant, although the towering and physical Cincinnati Bearcats cornerback has his first name spelled differently.
However, this Bryant has channeled his own “mamba mentality” before: On the eve of the Bearcats’ first-ever appearance in the College Football Playoffs in the Cotton Bowl.
Before switching numbers on the eve of Cincy’s contest versus Alabama, the Bearcats’ Bryant also showed off his dunking skills…on the football field:
And, by sharing a near-identical first name with a legend, Bryant has drawn his inspiration from the man who popularized No. 8 and No. 24 in L.A.
“I always go back to the famous quote from Kobe Bryant: ‘The job is not finished,'” Coby Bryant said to Chris Low of ESPN before the Cotton Bowl game versus the Crimson Tide. “And that goes from Day 1 to now. We have to stay hungry.”
Bryant also revealed to Low and other reporters during Cotton Bowl media day that before his collegiate career, plus well before he went from 7 to 8 on the football field, he wore another number: 24, which was his baseball number.
“I was named after him for a reason,” Bryant told reporters. “The Mamba Mentality is what I carry on to this day.”
Bryant Considered the ‘Other’ Cincinnati CB
The Bearcats were one of the few college football programs with two starting cornerbacks having unique names.
One named after a legend, the other called “Sauce.”
The latter name, however, is considered the more heralded prospect in the upcoming NFL Draft set for April 28 as Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner has been labeled a potential top 10 overall pick and one of the first cornerbacks taken.
Bryant, however, holds this distinction: He’s the 2021 Jim Thorpe Award winner, which honors the nation’s best defensive back.
How This Bryant can fit L.A.
With Darious Williams having left for the Jacksonville Jaguars, this leaves one opening at the CB position in the “Rams House.”
Bryant, however, will enter the league with plenty of game action as noted by Lance Zierlein of nfl.com in his draft profile of the Bearcat.
“Productive four-year starter whose experience sharpened his football IQ and leadership qualities,” Zierlein wrote.
At his height at 6-foot-1, 193-pounds, Zierlein likes Bryant’s frame and believes it can translate to an NFL setting.
“Bryant has good size and can be a real-time route reader, with above-average ball skills and an anticipatory brand of coverage,” he wrote.
While with the Bearcats, Bryant faced his share of top 10 opponents including No. 9 Norte Dame during the 2021 season.
Outside of Zierlein, Cory Giddings of Bleacher Report wrote how Bryant has third round value but is a potential starter.
“Coby Bryant is a long athletic corner who has been half of the dynamic Cincinnati secondary over the past few seasons, with Ahmad Gardner. Though he may be the lesser known cornerback, he has similar skills that aid to his cover ability,” Giddings wrote.
Should the Rams pivot to Bryant at No. 104, the champs not only add an extra physical cornerback opposite of Jalen Ramsey, but it gives L.A. the “Rams House” version of “Black Mamba.”