CINCINNATI — Cincinnati Bearcats cornerback Coby Bryant, as you might imagine, was named after former Los Angeles Lakers star basketball player Kobe Bryant.
Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, died in a helicopter crash in January of 2020.
Now, his namesake at the University of Cincinnati is doing what he can to pay tribute to the late superstar.
"I was named after him for a reason," said Coby Bryant, who is regarded as one of the best defensive backs in all of college football.
In fact, he was the 2021 recipient of the Jim Thorpe Award, recognizing the best defensive back in the country.
"The Mamba Mentality is what I carry on to this day," said Coby Bryant.
Coby Bryant is changing his jersey number from 7 to 8, just weeks ahead of Cincinnati's appearance in the College Football Playoff.
"I just try to represent him as well as I can," said Coby Bryant. "The best way is to put the number 8 on. I took it back to vintage Kobe."
While meeting the former NBA star was a dream of Coby's that never came true, he's long admired and celebrated the greatness of Kobe Bryant.
This won't be the first time he has worn Kobe's jersey number. Coby wore No. 24 for his travel baseball team as a kid.
"It's a blessing to wear number 8," said Coby Bryant. "I appreciate Coach [Luke Fickell] allowing me to wear it, and him understanding why I was doing it."
Coby said the number-change conversation with Fickell was "pretty smooth" and said the head coach was "happy for" him.
Cincinnati is set to face Alabama on Dec. 31 in the Cotton Bowl — a semifinal game in the College Football Playoff.
WCPO will have continuing coverage of the Bearcats, including an hour-long special program, live from Dallas at 7 p.m. on Dec. 30.