A redshirt freshman currently leads the Owls in total tackles, solo tackles, tackles for loss, sacks, blocks, fumble recoveries, pass break-ups and is second in interceptions.
That redshirt-freshman is Bryson Armstrong, who has played five college football games in his career at KSU.
Some might say he’s the next Luke Kuechly, but really, he’s just a humble kid from Marietta.
“It’s really the coaches putting me in the right spot and the guys around me making plays and making it easier on me,” Armstrong said. “Most of the time I’m coming off the edge unblocked because the linemen are worried about my teammates, so really it’s my other teammates that aren’t getting the stats that are helping me.”
Armstrong wasn’t always making plays all over the field. When he started out his football career in elementary school, he had a little trouble with the rules.
“I first started in second grade,” Armstrong said. “They put me at cornerback, and I wasn’t really sure what to do. All I really knew is you want to tackle people.”
“So I remembered every time the quarterback said ‘hut,’ I would just tackle the receiver and get a penalty every time because I didn’t really understand the game,” he added.
Fortunately, Armstrong brushed up on the rules before he arrived at Kell High School, where he became a dominant force on the field. He played in all three phases of the game as a receiver, linebacker and kick returner.
Armstrong finished his Kell career with eight touchdowns, 1408 yards receiving, 385 tackles, four interceptions, three fumble recoveries, five forced fumbles and seven sacks.
Despite the all-state praise from the Georgia Sports Writers Association and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution two years in a row, he was still not highly recruited out of high school. With limited options, Kennesaw seemed a natural choice.
“The closeness of KSU helped,” Armstrong said. “Being close to family and friends was a plus.”
After only five games under his belt, the Owls may have found a diamond in the rough. Despite his offensive success in high school, Armstrong jokingly says the team isn’t installing any plays for him.
Another reason that the Owl defense has been so solid this year is because of safety Taylor Henkle. Henkle, who graduated from Kell High School two years ahead of Armstrong, first met him in middle school.
“It’s been fun,” Henkle said. “We’ve grown up with each other’s families. He’s like my brother.”
Henkle finds that his past with Armstrong helps the defense communicate.
“Our relationship’s good,” Henkle said. “It helps on the field too with the communication. On the sideline, we can just talk like we talked in high school, and I think that helps the defense a lot.”
It certainly helped this past week against Texas Southern, as the Owls only gave up a field goal en route to a 48-3 victory. Armstrong racked up another 10 tackles and a sack in the victory.
Armstrong and company will hope to carry their four-game winning streak into conference play this weekend when they travel to Virginia to take on the Liberty Flames.