Friends, coaches and former University of Hawaii football teammates remember Bryan Addison as a hard-hitting safety with a soft heart.
Addison, 50, died on Saturday in California of cardiac arrest, according to a family member.
“It’s a loss for our university,” said Michael Carter, a former UH quarterback. “He’s a true warrior. He’s a good man. He’s a brother.”
Former UH receiver Darrick Branch was overcome with emotion after learning of Addison’s death. “It hurts,” Branch said. “He was still young. He had a lot of life to live.”
After missing the 1991 season because of an academic glitch, Addison returned the following year as a senior leader. On a defense of mouthpiece-loosening hitters — defensive linemen Ma‘a Tanuvasa and Taase Faumui went on to NFL careers — Addison delivered some of the biggest blows in 1992.
“He was the hardest-hitting football player I’ve ever met, come across or seen in my life,” Carter said. “I will say he was the first person who ever knocked me out.”
During a practice, they were at polar distances — Carter at running back, Addison at free safety. “I was to run up the middle,” Carter said. “We wanted to see if I could make a touchdown. I made the touchdown, I’d have to say that, but he did knock me out. I wasn’t out cold. I got up and I was smiling and stuff, but he did knock me out.”
It was that toughness that boosted the defense and guided the Warriors to an 11-2 season, punctuated with a surprising victory over Illinois in the 1992 Holiday Bowl. Addison had set the tone with UH’s road victories over Oregon and Air Force. He made a game-high nine tackles against the Ducks, then followed with a new role against the Falcons’ wishbone attack.
“He had an incredible game up at Air Force,” said Bob Wagner, who was UH’s head coach. “He was a free safety, but we lined him up about 8 yards. He ran the alley. I don’t think he missed a tackle. We won that game, 6-3.”
A few weeks later, Addison turned the other cheek when BYU’s Byron Rex waved a football in his face after the Cougars took a 30-29 lead 5:01 to play. The Warriors ended up winning, 36-30.
The Warriors won their first WAC title in 1992, leading to the matchup against Illinois in San Diego. “Without BA, we don’t win in ’92,” Branch said.
“You had respect for him,” said Victor Santa Cruz, a UH linebacker that season, “because you knew he was all in with everything. That Holiday Bowl year, he was the big piece of the puzzle. I remember being in that locker room and pre-game meetings that whole year. You could tell, this was it. Just getting out on the field with him, this guy was intense. Loved it.”
Carter said teammates bonded with Addison’s passion for the sport. “He was a good dude, man,” Carter said, “He loved football. That part is where we connected. The love of the game, no matter what.”
Addison is survived by three sons, including Bryan Jr., a wide receiver at Oregon, and two daughters. He was preceded in death by his wife, Faye, a Kamehameha Schools graduate who died in 2002 while giving birth to the couple’s fourth child.
For more Hawaii football, visit the Warrior Beat blog.