SALT LAKE CITY
– Nothing feels more natural to Bryan Mone
than imposing his will on some random offensive lineman who has drawn the unfortunate assignment of lining up across from him.
The senior defensive tackle sets the tone up front for the
Highland (Salt Lake City)
Rams. He embraces an aggressive style of play that gives him great leverage over opponents and lets him use his size, speed and strength to his advantage.
"I try to be violent with my hands," Mone says with a smile. "Mean and nasty."
That's one big reason so many schools chased hard after Mone, who received multiple offers from several power conferences before his senior season. The 6-foot-4, 314-pound tackle narrowed his final schools to Michigan, Stanford, Wisconsin, Notre Dame and Utah before choosing the Wolverines.
Michigan coach Brady Hoke and his staff won Mone and his family over with how much they seemed to care about him as a person.
"That's all (my family) wanted – somebody to watch over me while I'm out there because they can't be out there," Mone said. "They trust the Michigan football team. They liked it. They were happy with my decision."
There's more than a few Wolverine fans who share that sentiment. Recruiting website 247sports.com
ranks Mone as the No. 5 defensive end nationally in the 2014 class and No. 47 overall. In Utah, his size and skill set have many people drawing comparisons between Mone and another former Highland defensive lineman – Baltimore Ravens nose tackle Haloti Ngata.
Highland coach Brody Benson said he believes Mone has the ability to succeed in college and beyond because he is always finding new ways to improve himself as a player.
"Bryan is not a kid who just relies on his size, his speed or his strength," Benson said. "He really tries to perfect his trade. He'll constantly be working on different pass rush moves and run stop moves to where his game just doesn't become stagnant."
Mone brings a wealth of leadership and experience to the Rams' defensive line. Benson said that one of his best traits as a leader is the fact that he never takes a play off. He brings the same degree of elevated intensity on the practice field and on Friday nights.
For Mone, his thoughts are always centered on figuring out the best way for him to get the job done.
"He's not afraid to get out and work," Benson said. "He anchors that line and really tries to raise everyone else's play up by the way that he practices and the way that he plays."
Even as a freshman, Mone showed signs he was destined for bigger and better things. Earning a starting spot on the varsity team became inevitable as his sophomore season arrived because Mone did all the right things to earn it.
Mone felt like he belonged. That doesn't mean adjusting to a new role was a breeze for a kid who is as soft-spoken, easy going and humble off the field as he is aggressive on the field.
"I had butterflies everywhere," Mone said, recalling his first varsity start as a sophomore. "I was nervous. But it's like fighting. You're scared at the beginning until you start hitting. It was like that in the first game."
These days, it is Mone who is dishing out the butterflies to his opponents. He embraces a intimidating style like NFL role models such as Ndamukong Suh. Mone is relentless in getting inside the other team's head.
He wants them to think about him and worry about what he is going to do next. Nothing feels better than imposing his will on the line of scrimmage.
"Defensive tackle is where it's at," Mone said. "Beating the guy that's in front of you."
Benson considers Mone to be one of the best defensive players he has ever coached at Highland. He is a player that can alter how a team game plans against the Rams. That alone might be one of the biggest compliments to his abilities.
"He's that type of player where teams have to know where he's at on the field," Benson said. "It makes it a little easier that way where we're able to dictate a little more what the offense has to do." John Coon covers Utah high school sports for MaxPreps.com. He is a former prep sports reporter with the Salt Lake Tribune and the Deseret News. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @johncoonsports.