Whether he's on the field or the stage, Jowon Briggs commands a presence at Walnut Hills

CINCINNATI -- When Jowon Briggs was 4 or 5 years old, he helped his dad fix a broken Nintendo Entertainment System.

That was one of the starting points for his curiosity with electronics. It certainly didn’t stop there.

The Walnut Hills junior defensive tackle is one of the nation’s top high school football players in the 2019 class. The 6-foot-3, 285-pound four-star recruit from Pleasant Ridge would like to study computer science with a minor in music theory.

With scholarship offers from the likes of Ohio State, Alabama, Michigan, Michigan State, UC, Wisconsin, Notre Dame, Penn State, he'll have plenty of options. But, a college commitment can wait. 
 
Briggs is occupied with leading the Eagles this season. Walnut Hills opens the season Friday night against visiting Lakota East at 7 p.m. in the 20th annual Skyline Chili Crosstown Showdown. 
 
“He definitely commands a presence,” Walnut Hills coach Gerry Beauchamp said. “It’s definitely not a bad thing because when Jowon starts to bark the kids are like ‘uh-oh’ because he is a little more reserved.
 
“They know when he says something you can see a change in the whole demeanor and attitude of the team.”

Briggs has thought beyond football. He plans to take an Advanced Placement course in computer science principles next school year. Besides a football career, he’d like to become a computer programmer.

But there's more.

If the 15-year-old (he doesn’t turn 16 until Sept. 1) needs another component to his resume then he also has the experience of playing the lead role in "Ragtime -- The Musical" this past February at Walnut Hills. He won a Cappie for his lead role.

Walnut Hills junior Jowon Briggs with the cast members of "Ragtime" earlier this year. (Photos courtesy of the Briggs family/Dan Ledbetter Photography)

“It’s been a good decision in my life as far as I am concerned,” Briggs said after a football practice earlier this month. “It opened me up to (another) part of Walnut Hills I wasn’t really focused on like the musical department.”

Did we mention Briggs plays football and is rated No. 68 nationally by Rivals.com in the 2019 class?

“My wife (Dalila) and I are really proud of him,” said Briggs’ father, Jowon, who played high school football in Detroit in the late 1980s.

The Walnut Hills football standout is the second youngest of six children in the Briggs family. His younger brother, Zakai, is a freshman defensive lineman at Walnut Hills.

The Briggs family understands the importance of not only athletics but being well versed in other school activities such as music. Jowon attended the School for Creative and Performing Arts for two years prior to arriving at Walnut in the seventh grade.

Mike Sherman, the Walnut Hills Theatre Department Chairperson, had the football standout for a stagecraft class at Walnut but never heard him say more than five words. So he was curious to wait for Briggs’ moment to audition in November 2016.

“He comes in and this baritone high-tenor voice,” Sherman said. “He kind of blew everyone in the room away.”

Walnut Hills junior Jowon Briggs won a Cappie for his performance in the musical "Ragtime" this past spring. (Photos courtesy of the Briggs family/Dan Ledbetter Photography)

Briggs rehearsed for nine or 10 weeks. He lifted weights in the morning for football and rehearsed four days a week after school before the three-hour opening night in February. He plans to audition for "Pippin-- the Musical" this November.

“He’s just a great kid and a really humble human being,” Sherman said.

That’s a common theme among the Walnut Hills coaches. One assistant said he hasn’t seen anyone like Briggs in decades.

Briggs has taken visits to UC, Notre Dame, Alabama, Michigan, Michigan State and Miami University. Jowon hasn’t narrowed any choices yet and he hasn’t let the spotlight change him.

“You wouldn’t see him get fazed by (the football recruiting),” his father said. “It’s important to him but it doesn’t change his beliefs.”

Briggs may be the vocal lead actor on stage but he leads by example on the football field among his teammates.

Briggs, who participated in the prestigious Nike Opening camp in Beaverton, Oregon this summer, is mostly a defensive tackle but played some offensive line in 2016. He will do so again this season.

“It’s unbelievable especially having him go on offense and defense,” Beauchamp said. “He picked up the offense like that -- really quick. He’s definitely a smart football player.”

Walnut Hills Defensive Coordinator Kyle Flynn joked he would like to see Briggs sing a tune for the team. But that hasn’t happened -- yet.

Flynn, a former La Salle assistant coach, feels blessed to coach Briggs – not only for his talent but his character. He compares him to former La Salle standout defensive lineman Jordan Thompson, who is now at Northwestern.

“He comes in as advertised,” Flynn said. “You hear the name Jowon Briggs. A lot of times you go in thinking if guys are over-hyped. I mean the guy is the real deal athletically. He’s an even better young man academically and as a person.”

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