SEATTLE – The Bronsons always win.
Even when they lose.
This was the case when Johnnie and Sandra Bronson’s oldest son, John, played tight end for Penn State and the Arizona Cardinals. It was the case when John’s younger sister, Leitawsha, participated in basketball and track and field at Morgan State University in Baltimore. It was the case when Leitawsha’s younger brother, Demitrius, spent time as a tailback at Washington, Eastern Washington and the Seahawks practice squad before earning a contract as a professional wrestler with WWE. And it was the case when Demitrius’ younger brother, Josiah, was granted a scholarship (for the second time) as a defensive lineman at UW in May 2019.
The Bronsons are tied together by more than just blood (or an impressive array of athletic scholarships). Each one has set a standard – John for Leitawsha, Leitawsha for Demitrius, and Demitrius for Josiah.
They’ve set a high-jump bar for the next Bronson to try to top.
“For me, it was important to just kind of set a precedent of hard work and doing your best and being determined and giving 100% in everything that you’re doing, and that kind of trickles down from there,” said John Bronson, who played three games with the Arizona Cardinals in 2005 and 2006. “All four of us are definitely close in that aspect. Sports was a big part of us.”
The baby of the Bronson family is simultaneously the elder statesman of the UW football team. Josiah – a 6-foot-3, 300-pound graduate student defensive lineman – originally accepted a scholarship to play at Temple in 2015. He broke his ankle in his first fall camp, then transferred and walked on at Washington two years later. After earning a second scholarship in the spring of 2019, he made 11 starts and produced 23 tackles with four tackles for loss and two sacks last season.
And now, here he is – a sixth-year senior who was granted an extra year of eligibility by the NCAA. He’s an outlier in an undeniably youthful defensive line room.
And he’s a leader – just like John and Leitawsha and Demitrius, too.
“Obviously. with (Levi Onwuzurike) departing, Josiah became the guy with experience,” UW defensive line coach and co-defensive coordinator Ikaika Malloe said Sunday. “So in our room, he’s actually explaining. There’s teachers within teachers. So what I try to show the guys, he will stay after the meetings with the freshmen and kind of walk them through so they can understand exactly what I want.”
But that also doesn’t mean Josiah is done learning or improving. This offseason, when the pandemic put his final collegiate season in peril, he spent nearly a month in Orlando, Florida, training with Demitrius. When Josiah was in high school in Kent, Washington, the Bronson brothers would routinely push cars in parking lots. They’d stand behind Demitrius’ Mercedes and force it up a hill.
Those were “old-school workouts,” Josiah said last week, and he did some of those this offseason.
But Demitrius also made sure to push him in other ways.
“What I told him at the end of the day was, ‘Listen, man, you want to be more conditioned and more mentally tough than any of your opponents,’ ” said Demitrius, who owns a gym called “53 Squad Training” in Orlando. “ ‘Because at the end of the day, when you’re tired, you’re the man. The spotlight’s going to be on you. So you need to have that motor to be able to raise everybody else’s level. You have to have the conditioning for that. But you also have the mental capacity to, when it gets thick, you’ve got to keep fighting through.’
“I remember we were going outside and I was like, ‘OK, put your shoes on.’ He was like, ‘What are we doing?’ ”
It turns out, this time, there was no “we.” In the uncompromising Florida heat, Josiah – all 300 pounds of him – was going to run 5 miles at varying speeds, while Demitrius spat encouragement from a bicycle beside him.
“I got on my bike on purpose (instead of running) to have him push himself,” Demitrius said. “Because I’m not going to be on the field. My brother (John) is not going to be on the field. So at the end of the day, he has to push himself. That has to come from within.”
Ultimately, John, Leitawsha and Demitrius have provided an invaluable example. But Josiah has had to hurdle all these obstacles himself.
“When you go through stuff like (injuries and transfers), especially how we’re made up, with our mental state and our DNA, we get stronger as it gets thicker,” said Demitrius, who played running back at UW in 2009 and 2010 before transferring to Eastern Washington. “For Josiah to go in (at Temple), get hurt, having to transfer, kind of feeling homesick a little bit, and now resetting himself to go work to get a scholarship, you want a player like that. Because you know they’re on one mission: to come out on top. I’ve been really pleased about what he’s doing and how he’s maneuvered that.
“He’s almost there. I think this is the year they’re going to wake up the sleeping beast. Josiah has unbelievable talent. For him, it’s starting to click. He’s confident. He knows it’s show time. When that happens and the season starts up, it’s going to be a scary sight. Because even when he was down here, I could see that confidence building. I could see everything coming full circle.”
For Josiah, it all started in Washington, and he’s back where he belongs.
Thanks in part to his siblings, he’s also returned to Seattle in position to succeed.
“I was a kid in high school – lazy – and I didn’t really see that until my senior year,” Josiah said. “And (my siblings) have always been on me ever since I was little, always been on me about hard work and doing the extra things. It really didn’t hit me until I got to college. Then I started to see stuff like that. It’s been great having them always in my ear, trying to get me better.”
These days, the Bronsons are spread clear across the world. John lives primarily in Curacao, where he owns a business called “Finger Licking Dutch” that manufactures and distributes stroopwafel cookies. Leitawsha works for Microsoft and lives in Seattle. Demitrius continues to build his gym in Orlando.
Josiah is back at the University of Washington, attempting to raise the bar.
So you could say the Bronsons are each winning, in their own individual ways.
“At the end of the day, we want each other to do well, to succeed,” Demitrius said. “We really love and care for each other and we’re pulling for each other. That’s a testament to my parents, to how they raised us. Because we all want to win. We don’t settle.
“And when I say win, it doesn’t mean coming in first place. It’s giving your best in whatever you’re doing.”
“It’s our job to give our best in whatever role we’re in, as big brother or sister. So we are all super close.”
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