Stylishly bearded and inquisitive to the point of being annoying, Brendan Radley-Hiles is not unlike a graduate student enrolled at the University of Washington eager to further his education.
Yet rather than delve into research medicine or the latest get-rich business scheme, this Californian by way of the University of Oklahoma has come for the organized thrashing of opposing football players all over the artificial turf as a well-informed defensive back.
The UW, it’s been reported, is a national leader in this sort of choreographed mayhem.
“With the University of Washington defense specifically, we play with a lot of different gadgets and lot of different ways,” Radley-Hiles said. “Sometimes you’ll see four DBs, sometimes you’ll see five DBs. There’s times we play with six and times we play with seven DBs. I personally have never seen that at any school in the country.”
Take that, Barry Switzer and Brian Bosworth.
As the Huskies (1-2) prepare to open Pac-12 Conference play at home against California (1-2) at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, weather/pandemic-permitting, Radley-Hiles will be the guy playing quarterback for the local defense.
After starting 32 games for Oklahoma over three seasons, this player nicknamed “Bookie” — no, not for taking bets, but by his doting mother for being cute and adorable — switched schools because he seemingly plateaued as a college football player with NFL aspirations.
This one-time five-star recruit from Inglewood was always in the middle of the action for the Sooners, but never an all-conference selection. In fact, his only recognition at the school was being named a 2020 academic first-team All-Big-12 honoree. Imagine that.
“It’s life,” Radley-Hiles said. “You have to make great decisions for yourself. You have to keep going forward. I felt as if I had a great time in Oklahoma. I made long-lasting relationships with my peers, great relationships with my coaches, the faculty, the staff. I loved my time at Oklahoma . . . As a person, for me to keep going forward, I felt I had to make a change. I did, and I loved the decision I made.”
While he has endeared himself to the UW — radio play-by-play man Tony Castricone called him “really thoughtful” to his face this week — Radley-Hiles was described as polarizing when left Oklahoma. The suggestion was made that the fan base had grown weary of his spate of personal-foul penalties, and impatient that he hadn’t lived up to his potential as an alleged all-everything player.
Possibly everyone in Boomer Sooner land was simply piqued at him for leaving.
For the Huskies, he comes off his best performance against Arkansas State, leading the Huskies in tackles with nine while coming up with the team’s first turnover of the season, a third-quarter fumble recovery.
He’s played all defensive backfield positions at Oklahoma and Washington, but thrives as a nickel back.
“Really, nickel is nickel,” Radley-Hiles said. “Here, you’re the quarterback of the defense and you have to be a lot more vocal. A lot of people are listening to you and you’ve got to get guys lined up, and you have to find the fast guy. Whoever the fastest guy is on the field, that’s the guy who you have to guard.”
Trent McDuffie, the Huskies’ returning second-team All-Pac-12 cornerback, similarly a pro prospect and likewise from the Los Angeles area, knew Radley-Hiles some before his UW arrival.
“He’s been great,” McDuffie said. “He’s really mature in understanding the playbook and asking questions and things like that. We’ve spent hours and hours going over film.”
Then-UW defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake recruited Radley-Hiles out of high school, but the player chose Oklahoma over Clemson, Florida State, Nebraska, UCLA and USC, according to the Sooners media guide, barely giving the Huskies a sniff back then.
With the transfer portal open like a dam spillway, this aspiring NFL defensive back contacted Lake, now the Huskies’ head coach, and informed him he was thinking of transferring. They spoke about the process, the critiques, the attention to detail, everything that would be required of him in Seattle.
“By me bringing that to the table, Coach Lake promised to being his A game to the table in coaching me,” Radley-Hiles said. “We had a mutual understanding of making sure we brought our best foot forward for this program.”
With a bit of swagger over his DB expertise, Lake tossed out this little zinger, momentarily thinking he had made a recruiting protocol misstep, “If Bookie would have come here out of high school, just imagine where he would be right now. Can I say that? I can say that, right? He’s here.”
While late to the UW process, Radley-Hiles has jumped in with both feet trying to make up for any missed assignments from his previous secondary studies. He’s taken advantage of the full legacy of Husky defensive backs.
He has former Huskies Elijah Molden and Myles Bryant, one-time All-Pac-12 defenders now in the NFL, on speed dial.
“I’m human and I’m going to have errors and make mistakes,” Radley-Hiles said.
“Everything’s going to happen to me just as them. When I go through times, I call Elijah, literally last week. I’ll call Elijah if something comes up and he’ll tell me how he dealt with it. It gives me a perspective.”
Imagine that, the man they call Bookie is not only carrying a full load in football graduate school, he’s taking correspondence courses, too.
Former Seattle Post-Intelligencer reporter Dan Raley’s latest work can be found at Husky Maven at si.com