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An ‘adrenaline junkie’ at heart, Utes’ Bradlee Anae has lived — and thrived — on the edge of Utah’s defensive front

Senior defensive end is making his mark with the Utes.

SHARE An ‘adrenaline junkie’ at heart, Utes’ Bradlee Anae has lived — and thrived — on the edge of Utah’s defensive front
Utah Utes defensive end Bradlee Anae (6) flushes UCLA Bruins quarterback Wilton Speight (3) out of the pocket during the University of Utah versus UCLA football game at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, on Friday, Oct. 26, 2018.

Utah Utes defensive end Bradlee Anae (6) flushes UCLA Bruins quarterback Wilton Speight (3) out of the pocket during the University of Utah versus UCLA football game at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, on Friday, Oct. 26, 2018.

Steve Griffin, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Bradlee Anae refers to it as “island boy stuff.” While growing up in Laie, Hawaii, the Utah defensive end learned to appreciate things like cliff jumping, surfing and hiking. Anae and his friends also learned how to pet sharks, creatures he affectionately refers to as water dogs.

“We just go out there in the deep and we swim around with them. We have a good time,” he said. “We just kind of have a different connection with like nature and the water. I love the water.”

Anae readily admits to doing some crazy stuff that crazy island kids do.

“We’ve had some really good players come through here and he’s among those guys. We’ll see what happens his senior year, but we’re hoping for a big year out of him.” — Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham, on Bradlee Anae

“It’s just how I grew up,” said Anae, who still partakes in such activities whenever he returns home.

In Utah, the senior has made a habit of getting sacks. He’s made 17 in his career and has led the Utes for the past two seasons, topping the Pac-12 last year with eight.

“I’m proud of him. He’s come a long way. He’s just a kid that’s hungry, a humble kid that just works hard,” said Utah defensive ends coach Lewis Powell. “He’s really talented, too. He’s tapped into his talent, but he still has a high ceiling and I’m excited to see how he does this year.”

At 6-foot-3 and 265 pounds, Anae is a big force up front — and in more ways than one. The first-team all-conference honoree was recently elected as a team captain.

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said there’s not really any verbs or adjectives to aptly describe Anae. Whittingham, though, uses the word “tremendous” to describe his leadership, skills and work ethic. He added that Anae is an “ultra-talented kid” with a “high motor.”

In his first three seasons at Utah, Anae has made 27.5 tackles for loss and 94 stops overall. He’s in position to be one of the best defenders in team history. 

Utah DE Bradlee Anae career stats
Year Solo tackles Total tackles TFL-Yds. Sacks-Yds. Int. PD FF FR
2016 4 4 2-14 2-14
2017 25 39 10-56 7-49 3 2
2018 27 51 15.5-83 8-56 3 2
Totals 56 94 27.5-153 17-119 3 5 2
Stats via UtahUtes.com

“We’ve had some really good players come through here and he’s among those guys,” Whittingham said. “We’ll see what happens his senior year, but we’re hoping for a big year out of him.”

Anae is part of a heralded defensive line that also includes all-conference defensive tackles Leki Fotu and John Penisini.

“Playing beside him is pretty exciting, just to see what he does,” said Fotu, who explained that Anae is gifted with speed, athleticism and strength. “It’s just super fun playing next to him. It seems like he doesn’t run out of breath.”

As such, Fotu understands why things are so difficult for opposing offensive lines.

“He’s got such a high motor. He’s a great kid,” said defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley. “We’ll see what teams try to do to him this year.”

Although Scalley believes Anae will have his work cut out for him because of it, he’s confident things will get done.

“No fear. No fear in that kid,” Scalley said. “I love everything he brings to the team.”

The list includes laughter, a personality trait Scalley noted.

“A lot of my teammates from high school and a lot of my teammates here already know that I’m kind of off a little bit — like just crazy,” said Anae, who admits to walking on a tightrope of sorts. 

However, business is business.

“I know my limits,” he continued. “I know how to take care of my body. I wouldn’t do something that put my career in jeopardy. I also know how to work around it.”

“After the Utes offered me, it was an easy choice for me to come here. The biggest thing for me here was the tradition on the D-line — how many guys they send to the league. The program is known to develop NFL talent.” — Utah defensive end Bradlee Anae

Anae explained that he has a knack for such things. Even so, he considers himself kind of an “adrenaline junkie.”

One, Anae freely admits, with no regrets. And that includes his decision to play for Utah. His first offer came from BYU.

“After the Utes offered me, it was an easy choice for me to come here,” Anae said. “The biggest thing for me here was the tradition on the D-line — how many guys they send to the league. The program is known to develop NFL talent.”

It’s about respecting the process.

“And the process here at Utah will get you to the next level if you really take it seriously and actually respect it,” said Anae, who led Kahuku High School to a 13-0 record and a state championship in 2015.

Anae’s father, Brad, played for BYU from 1979-81 and was a two-time All-American. His uncle, Robert, also played for the Cougars (1981-84) and later became a coach in the program. He’s currently the offensive coordinator at Virginia.

The ties, though, didn’t sway Bradlee in his choice of college football destinations. He said his family left it up to him.

“They wanted to give the agency to me to go wherever I wanted,” Anae said.

And now he’s making his mark with the Utes, leaving quite an impression. 

“He could be one of the better guys that’s been through the University of Utah,” acknowledged Powell. “He’s going to have a good shot to make it it in the NFL also.”