CINCINNATI — Jowon Briggs can't help but smile when discussing this University of Cincinnati football season.
The UC sophomore defensive lineman and 2019 Walnut Hills High School graduate is grateful for the circumstances over the past year that led him back home with an opportunity for a national championship.
"I think it's definitely exciting," Briggs said. "You can feel the buzz in the air. We're ready to just get out there and show that we can play."
Briggs, 20, transferred from the University of Virginia football program following the 2020 regular season. The former Under Armour All-American chose UC as his destination due to the reputation of the football program and its proximity to home.
Now Briggs and the Bearcats (13-0) are a week away from playing Alabama (12-1) in the College Football Playoff semifinal in Arlington, Texas, on Dec. 31.
"I think since it's just been so back-to-back with everything I really haven't had a chance to just step back and look at it all," Briggs said. "I feel like these next few days I'll really have a chance to look at things holistically and just maybe admire it a bit. I think it was pretty neat how things just fell into place."
Briggs has had a prominent role late this season. He's started four of the past five games and is tied for eighth on the team in tackles (41). He recorded a sack in games against Houston, East Carolina (season-high seven tackles) and Tulane this season.
"He comes in hungry," UC defensive line coach Greg Scruggs said. "It makes it easy as a coach to show up every day when you got people who want to learn and who are willing to learn."
Scruggs, who won two Super Bowl titles as an NFL player, said Briggs has been a great addition. The coach and player have connected beyond football too – with music as a common link.
Scruggs, a St. Xavier High School graduate, was a drummer in the St. X marching band for three years while only playing high school football for one season.
Briggs is an Interdisciplinary Studies major at UC with a focus on physics and music.
Briggs was recognized for his musical talent going back to his sophomore year at Walnut Hills when he had a lead role in "Ragtime - The Musical." He attended the School for Creative and Performing Arts for two years prior to arriving at Walnut in the seventh grade.
"That was part of my recruiting ploy, if you will, is that I kind of understood his interests and the connection," Scruggs said. "The mindset behind a musician, because it's different.
"An artist is different. We think differently. It's more creative. You kind of pay attention to things that other people don't. And so we drew that connection. I've always told them that I always wanted to honor that part of his life. And if there was any way that I could be supportive of that part of his life and his journey, I wanted to."
Briggs has taken computer science, physics and high-level math classes while considering his career options. He's leaning toward a future path in computer science or information technology.
"He was multi-talented, first of all," said former Walnut Hills coach Gerry Beauchamp, who is now the Lakota West offensive coordinator. "I mean, Jowon could've probably picked a number of different things besides football and went and done that and been really good at that. Just an all-around great kid, great leader."
Briggs said he takes a great deal of pride in the academic side of his college career.
"My older sister graduated from here," Briggs said. "She's an electrical engineer. All my sisters went to college – I have four older sisters. I think it's very important to have the athletics side and the academic side working hand in hand. In a lot of ways it makes you a better person being able to handle both sides of things. You know, it just makes you – I'd say more wholesome, being able to succeed in both veins in life."