Breeze gets chance to prove himself at Opening
BEAVERTON — The Opening isn’t an event for underdogs.
The overlooked and under-appreciated are encouraged to apply elsewhere. This weeklong football camp, staged annually at Nike World Headquarters, is reserved for alpha males only.
Doubters, the motivational force behind so many notable athletic feats, aren’t relevant here. The players chosen for The Opening are uniformly praised, propped up and applauded for their abilities.
That’s a useful thing to understand about Brady Breeze, whose presence in Beaverton qualifies him as one of the top football prospects in the country. Scouting services rank him as a four-star safety in the class of 2016, and competition for his services would be fierce if he hadn’t committed to Oregon almost a year ago.
Even among the best of the best, though, a spectrum still exists. Some players expect to be invited and know they belong. Others, like Breeze, view the experience with wider eyes.
“As a kid, I used to watch this thing on TV,” said Breeze, who transferred from South Medford High to Portland’s Central Catholic prior to last season. He'll be a senior for the Rams this year. “It was cool when I got the invite, because I never really thought I would.”
This week was a welcome-to-the-show moment for Breeze, one of many he’ll experience as he makes the transition from high school to college. For him, The Opening was an introduction to the kind of competition that awaits — a chance to mingle with other big-time prospects and confirm, for himself as much as anyone, that he belongs on the same field.
“I think Brady knows that he’s pretty good, but I’m not sure he’s convinced of how good he can be yet,” said Steve Pyne, Breeze’s coach at Central Catholic. “I think he can be pretty darn special. I think this will be a good week for him to get out there and go, ‘OK, I belong here.’”
Breeze has strong football bloodlines. He’s the nephew of Chad Cota, the former Duck safety who played eight years in the NFL, and his dad, Jim, played at Arizona State before finishing his career at Southern Oregon.
Breeze doesn’t wow recruiting analysts with size or speed, but his innate play-making ability was there from the beginning. For him, it was a matter of demonstrating it against increasingly difficult competition: first at South Medford High, then at Central Catholic, now against other talented recruits from across the country.
“I think it’s a really nice challenge for him to see where he measures up,” Jim Breeze said, watching 7-on-7 competition from the sideline. “You kind of gain your confidence as you go.
“I’m sure at first he’s a little bit intimidated, naturally, as a small-town Oregon kid. But the more you get involved with playing with these guys, you realize, ‘Hey, they’re just guys like me.’”
Breeze will experience a similar transition — albeit on a much bigger scale — when he arrives on Oregon’s campus next year.
He’s excited for the challenge, but his parents also advised him to stay in the moment and savor his senior year at Central Catholic.
“He’s trying not to get the cart before the horse,” Jim said. “That’s my advice and his mom’s advice — just make sure you’re enjoying it. It’s great to think about the Ducks and it’s a huge opportunity, but make sure you’re enjoying the ride.”
Breeze takes that advice to heart, but Oregon is always present in his thoughts. Thursday morning, it started the moment his cell phone buzzed to wake him up.
“My alarm today was the Oregon fight song,” he said. “I try to have Oregon in my thoughts all the time to get me pumped up and get me ready to play.”
Breeze, the first player to commit for Oregon’s 2016 class, grew up attending games at Autzen Stadium and watching the Ducks on TV. When his scholarship offer came, it required very little deliberation.
“I think it will feel like home to me when I’m there,” he said.
Breeze is pretty sure Oregon is where he belongs. Starting next year, he’ll get to prove it all over again.