Central Catholic grad Breeze rises up, stars in Rose Bowl
PASADENA, California — It's not in dispute now: Brady Breeze, who prepped at Central Catholic High and lived in Lake Oswego through his teen years after growing up in Medford, has become a star player for the Oregon Ducks.
After a great performance in the Pac-12 title game, Breeze followed up with an even better game as Oregon beat Wisconsin 28-27 Wednesday in the Rose Bowl.
Breeze led Oregon with 11 tackles, scooped up a fumble from the Wisconsin punter and scored from 31 yards and then forced the fumble that led to Justin Herbert's 30-yard touchdown run that, along with Camden Lewis' extra-point kick, put Oregon ahead in the fourth quarter.
My goodness, what a surge of exceptional play by Breeze, who also earned first-team Pac-12 honors for special teams. He's always been on special teams, but he was down on the depth chart at safety in spring ball. He played well in training camp and eventually earned more playing time throughout the 2019 season.
A lifelong Ducks fan, and nephew of former UO star Chad Cota, Breeze has been a true fighter through a 4-8 season in 2016 (as a redshirting player), coaching changes, program upheaval and rebuilding.
To be part of a 12-2, Rose Bowl championship team is special for Breeze, who had a lengthy, passionate explanation of his journey after the game.
On his fumble recovery of the Wisconsin punter's bobble and the ensuing touchdown, Breeze thought about Tony Washington's scoop-and-score as Oregon beat Florida State in the January 2015 Rose Bowl.
"I went and looked at the section I was sitting when I was at that game as a fan, and now I'm scoring the touchdown in the Rose Bowl," he said, before adding:
"And life's come full circle, and I've stayed faithful (with the team). We've been down and out. We've had three head coaches in four years. I mean, three defensive coordinators in four years. And I wouldn't trade it for the world because it's made us better men and better teammates. And we've got this guy as our head coach (Mario Cristobal).
"I wouldn't trade it for the world. It's been a blessing and our team has just stayed faithful. And to be able to make plays in the Rose Bowl like that is just incredible. We've worked so hard as a defense and as an offense and special teams, it's nice to see us come together and come together as teammates.
"And seeing them run out the clock at the end, it was amazing to see. Everyone cheering and high-fiving each other and people crying because we've been through so much -- 4-8 my freshman year."
A fellow Oregonian, Herbert from Eugene, starred for the offense with three touchdowns — all running.
'It's just amazing," Breeze said. "And it's cool to see all these people waving at us in the stands and stuff, all these fans, all these little kids, just like I was when I was at the game watching Ohio State play Oregon (in January 2010) and watching Florida State play Oregon. I was just a fan, dreaming of playing in these type of games."
As he often does, Breeze gave glory to God as a Christian young man.
"The stars aligned, and God has answered all my prayers as a kid -- all I wanted to do was to play for Oregon," he said.
Defensive coordinator Andy Avalos called Breeze "Johnny on the spot" for his knack of being around the ball and making plays.
Breeze had four fumble recoveries and two interceptions and three touchdowns this season — along with the Rose Bowl score, he scored a touchdown on a fumble recovery against Nevada and on an interception against USC. One of his fumble recoveries helped the Ducks seal their 24-10 Civil War win against Oregon State. Then he played the game of his life against Utah, starting and playing most of the game and finishing with a team-high nine tackles, including a key fourth-down stop against Zack Moss, and picking off a pass.
Said Avalos: "He plays hard and works hard, and he's always in right spot at the right time, and plays the game the way it's suppposed to be played."
Cristobal heaped praise on the 6-1, 195-pound Breeze, who'll obviously return for his senior season and play a prominent role.
"This guy's always been impressive," the coach said, adding that Breeze fought hard for playing time and "he never stopped competing."
Added Cristobal: "He proved a lot. He proved that he needs to be out there. He's proved he's one of the better players on our football team. And we're fortunate and lucky to have him as part of this organization. I mean, not only tonight but throughout the entire season, what he brings to this football team is enormous.
"And so, again, super proud of him. Super grateful to him and his resiliency to keep pressing on and make his opportunity count."
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