The way Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney found out his senior quarterback was transferring was almost as surprising as what Kelly Bryant said earlier in the day on Wednesday.
Bryant told The Greenville News he felt he did not get a fair shake in his competition with Trevor Lawrence to be the Tigers’ starting quarterback, and he felt like he got slapped in the face for all he had done.
However, Bryant informed Swinney via a text message he was leaving the team after he snuck out of the Allen Reeves Football Complex following Tuesday’s team meetings.
Swinney told the media following Wednesday’s practice that he spoke to Bryant prior to the team meeting. He said Bryant attended both the team and quarterback meetings. However, when the rest of the team headed out for practice, Bryant did not go.
“I did talk to him before our meetings,” the Clemson coach said. “He was in the team meeting, the quarterback meetings, and then he just did not come out to practice. I sent somebody to make sure he was okay. I was worried about that. But, he just went home.”
When Swinney came back to his office after practice, he saw the text Bryant had left him.
“He had sent me a nice text and said he was sorry. This is what he was going to do, and he appreciated his opportunity,” Swinney said. “He was proud of his degree and all of that. This was his decision so that is it.”
And thus, ended the Kelly Bryant era at Clemson.
The former Tiger complied a 16-2 record as a starter and led the Clemson to an ACC Championship and to the College Football Playoff in 2017.
“I wish we still had him here,” Swinney said. “I rather him be here. It is what it is. It’s like somebody having a season-ending injury. They are gone. You got what you got, and you go back to work. That’s what we have done.”
Swinney said he knew Bryant was contemplating the idea of redshirting when they met on Monday. The Clemson coach tried to encourage him and told why they made the decision to start Lawrence for Saturday’s game against Syracuse.
“I told him we have to move forward and go back to work, but he was emotional,” Swinney said. “As I said the other day, he was not in a very good place. He was very disappointed. We talked about all the options and that was what he brought up and I certainly tried to discourage that.
“I even told him if he wanted to go somewhere else and play, ‘I just will not play you. If that is what you want? That is not what I want, but I will not play you.’ But, in the end, he said he appreciated everything. He appreciated the opportunity to be a graduate from Clemson. He appreciated everything we had done and the opportunity to play football here. ‘This is my decision.’ So, you support him and you move on.”