Bryce Damous and his fellow UAB tight-end teammates know very well that their position comes complete with a question mark heading into the season.
It’s not necessarily regarding who they have on the current roster to play that position. It’s who they don’t have. Gerrit Prince is chasing an NFL job with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Hayden Pittman will soon be on his way to Orlando to work on securing a spot in the WWE.
If you have to ask what those two meant to the UAB program then you weren’t paying attention over the past several years. Pittman not only played in a school record 63 games since first coming into the program in 2017 but also was one of the players setting the physical tone for the program. Prince brought unique pass-catching and athletic skills to the position and was a big play performer for the offense.
How do you replace that?
“For us, losing two big tight ends, everybody knows those guys, you almost need to have a chip on your shoulder,” Damous said. “It’s like ‘What are the tight ends going to do? UAB is known for having tight ends.’ It’s definitely one of those things that’s always talked about. For us, we focus on coming in every day, getting better. As long as we stick together, we can do what we have to do.”
Time will tell about this group of tight ends but they did have a strong camp as a group. Terrell McDonald, who was a big part of the rotation the last two seasons, leads this year’s group. Maleak Bryant is healthy for the first time since leaving high school and Damous is solidly in the top rotation. Junior college transfer Dallas Payne, redshirt freshman Joey Dalton and true freshman J.C. Sivley have also had solid camps.
“At the end of the day, we all push each other to make each other better,” the 6-foot-2, 230-pound Damous said. “It’s all love if someone else gets the job or someone else does something. We’re all pushing for each other’s success.”
Damous not only had to work his way into the rotation but also had to work to find a spot in a FBS program. He grew up, for the most part, in Huntington, West Virginia, with dreams of playing quarterback for the Marshall Thundering Herd. His parents are Marshall graduates.
His family moved to Charleston when he was in middle school and he spent his first two high school years playing quarterback at South Charleston High. When he moved back to Huntington, his coach at Huntington High said he’d outgrown the quarterback position and Damous became a linebacker. Not long after, the coach saw Damous running around and catching the ball before practice and he also became a tight end.
Damous was academically qualified after high school but had little recruiting attention. He had a couple of FCS schools interested and some walk-on invitations at FBS schools but wanted more. He chose to attend Garden City Community College in Kansas.
“I took a chance and felt like I could play at a higher level,” Damous said. “Being a kid from West Virginia going 17 hours away in the middle of the United States, it’s a culture shock. You get off the plane, you’re seeing nothing but farmland and horses. Walking to class, you see a chicken walking with you. It’s just something you don’t see every day. It was definitely a humbling experience and a good experience.”
Once again, though, recruiting attention was light after his two junior college seasons. He hoped for a Marshall offer but only received a walk-on invitation. When UAB called, he jumped at the chance.
“I love it here,” Damous said. “There’s a lot of history here. Before I got here, I didn’t know a lot about UAB. I got here and it’s a very special place.”
His official bio reads that he appeared in one game last year and didn’t record a stat. There’s a story that goes with that one appearance.
His lone game came in the Blazers’ trip to UTSA with the C-USA West Division title at stake. He wasn’t originally slated to make the trip but McDonald got sick when the team was at the airport getting ready to fly to San Antonio. Damous, who was playing video games at home that morning, got the call to get ready to fly out that night to join the team.
“Long story short, I didn’t get a flight that evening and had to leave that next morning,” said Damous. “I got up at like 5 in the morning and you’re just casually walking through the airport like everybody else. I get there and they’re all coming out for walkthrough (at the team hotel). I’m literally just getting out of the car, fresh from the airport. It was definitely an interesting experience because I had been through anything like that. I was like whatever you need me to do.”
This year, count on Damous to do a lot more for the UAB offense.
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