Austin Bryant sat down for his interview with the media Tuesday, carrying himself like a player who isn’t at all nervous heading into second-ranked Clemson’s primetime showdown at Texas A&M on Saturday night.
The Clemson defensive end hummed a tune as he awaited questions from reporters, then interrupted the first question with a polite greeting for the media.
“First of all, I want to say how are y’all doing today? Y’all doing good?” Bryant asked. “Good. I’m doing great. I had class today and I’m feeling good, talking to y’all.”
Early in his career, Bryant may have been nervous or anxious entering a marquee game on the road in a hostile environment like the one Clemson will play in on Saturday at Kyle Field — the largest stadium in Texas with an official capacity of 102,995.
However, now a senior, Bryant has conditioned himself to approach games like this Saturday’s as just that — another game.
“Just simplify the game — take the crowd out of it, take the fans out of it, take the coaches out of it — it’s football, a sport that we’ve been playing since we were children,” Bryant said. “It’s a kid’s game and I truly believe that, so you never want to let the lights get too bright because at the end of the day, it’s just a game. You spot the ball, 11 people are going to go out there on offense and defense. They’re going to run, block and tackle just like you’ve been doing since Pee Wee League. So, I think you just try to simplify it and don’t make it more than what it is because of the noise that surrounds the atmosphere.”
“I would definitely say as a freshman, I didn’t simplify it. I made it maybe more than what it was,” he added. “But now being a fourth-year senior, I realize it’s just football. At the end of the day I’ve just got to read my keys, play my game, believe in myself and be confident, and it will come to me. As long as I take my preparation serious, prepare relentlessly and just be desperate to get my job done, then everything else will be fine.”
Bryant has been in this position plenty of times before, preparing for a big matchup on the road away from Death Valley. Just last year, the Tigers traveled to Louisville and Virginia Tech for top-15 tilts, both of which ESPN’s College GameDay was on location for.
Clemson won those games by a combined score of 78-38, and since the start of Bryant’s career in 2015, the Tigers are 14-1 in true regular season road games, with the lone loss coming at Syracuse last season.
Bryant credits the Tigers’ success on the road to the high performance standard the team has set for itself, regardless of who the opposition is.
“Just us playing to our standard, not playing up to an opponent or playing down to an opponent,” he said. “Just playing up here all the time because that’s our standard. What everybody’s best is, that’s what we need from each and every person on the team. I think that’s what’s given us an edge in playing big games because we don’t make it more than what it is — it’s just football.”
Bryant says that where the Tigers play isn’t something they focus on — they just get themselves ready to play.
“We can play anywhere. We can play on Jervey Meadows if you want to,” he said.
“That’s just something that we’ve instilled in our head. It doesn’t matter where we play, when we play, who we play. Just spot the ball.”
Although the Tigers are looking at the Texas A&M game as simply one of 12 games on the regular season schedule, Bryant admits he is looking forward to being the enemy when Clemson plays at Kyle Field on Saturday.
The game kicks off at 7 p.m. and will be televised by ESPN.
“It’s definitely fun to play on the road, get to travel, see a new place, quieter crowd,” he said. “It’s definitely fun to have 105,000 people rooting against you.”