Washington linebacker Joe Tryon (9) battles Colorado tight end Brady Russell during a game Nov. 23, 2019, in Boulder, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Washington linebacker Joe Tryon (9) battles Colorado tight end Brady Russell during a game Nov. 23, 2019, in Boulder, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Best yet to come

Of all the questions on UW’s Joe Tryon, perhaps the biggest is how high he could go in the NFL draft

By Adam Jude / The Seattle Times

There will be much to celebrate when the Tryon family gathers Thursday in Newcastle. The get-together will double as a send-off, of sorts, for Andrea Tryon’s two children, who will soon head out on their own, off to one to-be-determined corner of the country or another.

“It’s a big couple of weeks coming up for us,” Andrea says. “I’m very, very proud of them.”

Julia, Andrea’s oldest, recently completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Washington — where she double-majored in biology and Spanish — and has been accepted into several medical schools. She has an early-May deadline to decide which school she will attend (Rush University in Chicago is the early front-runner).

And there’s Andrea’s youngest, Joe — Joseph to his mom. The 6-foot-5, 259-pound former UW edge rusher is one of the more intriguing prospects entering the NFL draft. Joe will turn 22 on Friday, and by then there’s a chance he could already be flying out to his new home. Perhaps it will be Tampa Bay? Or Buffalo? Maybe Green Bay?

Just how high could he go in the NFL draft?

For Andrea, there’s less concern about when her son is selected in the draft and more emphasis on him getting a good opportunity with an established organization. In that approach, she says, she’s following Joe’s lead.

“I really don’t mind where I’m drafted, you know,” Joe said recently. “It’s an honor to be in this position in the first place. What I really care about is landing on a good team that’s going to use me to my best advantage. So it’s not about how high I go. … I don’t care if I’m first round or not.”

The Tryon family home in Newcastle is just a half-mile or so away from the Seattle Seahawks’ headquarters on the southeastern edge of Lake Washington. It wasn’t uncommon for the family to see Seahawks players at the grocery store or gas station, guys Joe looked up to as a kid — guys he’s trying to emulate now.

“This (draft process) has been fun for him,” Andrea says. “He’s a fan at heart. He grew up watching all these players, and now he’ll get to be on the same field as them. That’s a big deal.”

Of course, Andrea says, she would love for Joe to stay home and play for the Seahawks. That, she knows, is unlikely. The Seahawks know it too. They don’t pick until late in the second round (No. 56 overall), and Joe is projected to be long gone by then.

Earlier this month, a Seahawks executive called Joe’s cellphone while Joe was driving with his mom in the car. He put the call on speaker, and Andrea gave the Seahawks exec some good-natured ribbing. “Darn it,” she says she asked him, “why did you trade all those first-round picks?”

“Well,” the exec replied, “we did get Jamal Adams.”

After opting out of the pandemic-shortened 2020 college football season, Joe moved to Southern California last September and got a head-start on training for the draft. He’s been working out every day since — with a light workout of yoga on Sundays — and his physical transformation has raised eye brows among NFL scouts. He is, in short, everything NFL teams look for in an edge rusher — long, lean, strong, fast.

Tryon checked off all the necessary boxes at UW’s Pro Day workout last month, running a 4.65-second 40-yard dash. Many are projecting him as a late first-round pick Thursday night, even as questions persist about his potential.

Tryon played only one season as a starter at UW, posting 8.0 sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss in 13 games as a redshirt sophomore in 2019. That he doesn’t have more tape — and more production — is about the only legitimate reason NFL teams would hesitate to take him higher in the first round.

Pro Football Focus lists Tryon as one of its 10 “boom or bust” prospects entering the draft. “Tryon has a tried and true combination of length and linear explosiveness that can be a bull-rushing threat at the next level,” PFF wrote. “The problem is, that was pretty much all he had on tape at Washington before opting out. … Not getting able to see his next step in 2020 only adds more uncertainty to what he could be in the NFL.”

Chris Bennett had some similar questions about Tryon when the new coach took over at Renton’s Hazen High School before Tryon’s senior season. He was Hazen’s third head coach in four years, and Bennett naturally assumed his 6-foot-5 senior would make an ideal left tackle.

“And then I saw him run,” Bennett recalled, “and it was like, ‘Oh … my … God, we cannot put this kid on the offense line.’”

Tryon was a natural defensive end, and Bennett was intrigued by Tryon’s potential at tight end — and he immediately became Hazen’s best offensive weapon. Of Tryon’s 33 receptions his senior season, 11 went for touchdowns for a team that finished with a 2-8 record. (It is believed that Tryon will be the first Hazen graduate drafted into the NFL.)

“He had never caught a pass in his career before then,” Bennett said. “We put him in the slot quite a bit, and he was a matchup problem for everyone. He was a man among boys, and even then, he was just scratching the surface.”

That is the growing sentiment in NFL circles too. Bennett says he’s fielded calls from about a dozen NFL teams doing routine background checks on Tryon — Tampa Bay has shown strong interest — and the consensus is Tryon’s raw upside is vast.

“His best football is ahead of him,” Bennett said.

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