Imagine graduating college and landing your dream job. Then, imagine said job is in the same city with the same employer at the same time as one of your oldest and best friends.
Presumably, the odds for such a scenario are low. But it can happen. In fact, for two members of the Tennessee Titans’ 2021 draft class, it did.
Safety Brady Breeze, a seventh-round pick, and cornerback Elijah Molden, a third-round choice, have a friendship that goes back to when they were children.
“We're good family friends,” Breeze said. “My uncle Chad Cota and his dad, Alex Molden, were teammates at Oregon for the Gang Green back in (1994) when they played in the Rose Bowl. I've known Elijah my whole life. So, it's pretty cool to be able to call ourselves teammates and I'm definitely excited.”
Their professional collaboration has been a long-time coming. It also was preceded by some head-to-head battles.
Both hail from Oregon, and in high school Breeze played at Central Catholic in Portland while Molden starred at West Linn High School.
Breeze’s Rams defeated Molden’s Lions 42-7 in a 2015 state playoff quarterfinal. Molden, who played defensive back and running back in high school, scored the Lions’ lone touchdown in that contest on an 84-yard reception. He exited the contest early due to an injury. The Rams forced five turnovers, which included a Breeze fumble recovery. Central Catholic eventually won the Oregon 6A state championship that season.
Breeze graduated in 2016, while Molden had one more high school season to play. The latter, who hoped he would get the chance to play Central Catholic again, led West Linn to its first-ever state title that season by defeating Breeze’s former team, 62-7. Molden carried the ball 10 times in that game for 186 yards and three touchdowns.
Afterward, he said, “This is the best game I have ever played in.”
Both moved on to successful college careers in the Pac-12 Conference, with Breeze at Oregon, and Molden at Washington. That meant three regular-season meetings, and two more victories for Breeze in their friendly battle for bragging rights.
In 2018, Oregon defeated the Huskies 30-27 in overtime. In the loss, Molden made three tackles, broke up a pass and forced a fumble, while Breeze contributed on special teams. The following season, Oregon got the better of Washington again, 35-31. Breeze finished that contest with four tackles, and Molden shined with seven tackles, including one for a loss of yards.
Breeze won a Pac-12 title and a Rose Bowl in college (both in 2019). Molden also was also part of a Pac-12 championship team but never experienced the thrill of winning a big-time bowl game as a Huskie. He played in the Fiesta Bowl (2017) and Rose Bowl (2018), losing both.
Breeze presumably learned a lot about playing safety from Cota, who played the position in the NFL for seven seasons. Molden said his father, who played cornerback for eight seasons in the NFL, has been his biggest influence.
No doubt, the two benefited in any number of ways for the experience the previous generation. Now, like their elders, they will know what it means to play alongside someone to whom they already are close.
“When I saw him [Molden] get drafted to the Titans, I was like, 'Oh, that'd be pretty sweet to, you know, be his teammate,'” Breeze said. “Sure enough, I get a call from Head Coach (Mike) Vrabel. I was pumped. I'm like, 'Dude, I get to play, you know, with one of my lifelong friends.'”