KINGWOOD — It’s been a long time since the Preston High football team had a truly dangerous weapon in the return game. Senior free safety and wide receiver Jacob Brady is quickly on his way to ending that trend.
“We haven’t had that type of talent back there in a while,” Knights head coach Jonathan Tennant said. “We’re pretty pleased with what he’s doing back there.”
Through the opening three games this fall, Brady leads his squad in both all-purpose yardage and touchdowns scored — accomplishments that can be credited in large part to his dynamic return skills.
Brady has tallied 108 yards on punt returns and 366 on kick returns while adding a touchdown in each category through four games — he averages over 30 yards per return, which plays a crucial role in cutting down the yards the Knights offense needs to add points to the board.
“I don’t think we’ve ever had two touchdown returns in a season, nonetheless in the first three games,” Tennant said. “It’s a big lift for us. We’ve made a few mistakes in our punt team and kickoff coverage, but he can make up for that. He’s a good kid to have back there.”
Tennant describes the role Brady fills on the team as one often reserved for players with high football IQ, as a bad decision in the return game can cost teams crucial field position and potentially cause turnovers.
That intelligence is what earned Brady the top spot on the depth chart, but it’s his knack for finding lanes and blowing past defenders with deceptive speed that has helped secure his spot as one of the most dangerous returners in Class AAA football.
“On punt returns we always put the smartest kid back there — the one who can make the decisions, like when to fair catch it or when to return it. You add to that a kid with Jacob’s athleticism and you have a real weapon,” Tennant said.
“He’s got good vision, and speed to go with it. He’s decisive — he doesn’t dance around. He sees an opening and he takes it, and when he gets around that edge there haven’t been many that could catch him so far.”
Brady, however, attributes his success more to patience and teamwork than his own talent levels. According to him, it’s all about the waiting game.
“I usually try to hesitate and let my wedges do their thing. That’s when I look for a small gap and push my way through,” he said. “I don’t think that my talent has much of an affect. The return team is really who gets the job done. They create a play for me and I take it.”
Tennant emphasized the major effect that Brady’s big-play potential can have in a game, with an example coming no more recently than Sept. 7 at John Marshall.
“It was critical for us. Against John Marshall, it brought us right back into the game before we made some other mistakes. It’s a huge momentum shift. We spend a lot of times focusing on special times,” Tennant said.
Brady also shines on defense, where he currently leads the team with 22 solo and 35 total tackles. He talked about the philosophy he brings to the defensive end of the field, which he described as “positive.”
“I give it my all every play and try to help the team out as much as I can while doing my job correctly,” he said. “I trust my brothers on defense to do their job, and I make sure I do mine so they can trust me.”
Brady anchors the Knights’ defense from the free safety position, where he roams the alley to shut down any potential big plays before they have a chance to develop.
“We want our free safety at the line of scrimmage if it’s a run, and he does that very well. He’s good at moving down hill, and has really increased his tackling skills over the years,” Tennant said.
Brady, who has played the position for years leading into his senior season, is accustomed to the challenge the position brings. Now, as he excels with each passing game, he credits his coaches for bringing this level of play out of him.
“I’ve been playing it my whole life; the way I play it now is just second nature,” he said. “The coaching I’ve had over the years is really what has gotten me to the point I’m at now.”