Clemson’s Bryant decided to play through pain knowing injury would prevent him from working out for NFL Scouts
When Austin Bryant tore his pectoral muscle during Clemson’s Week 10 win over Louisville, the training staff sat the senior defensive end down and gave him his options.
Those options were – have surgery and the season is over or manage then pain and continue to play.
“He did not even hesitate,” head coach Dabo Swinney said. “To me that says all you need to know about Austin Bryant. He looked at Danny (Poole) like he was crazy. Like, ‘no, I am playing.’”
Bryant did not miss a single game, and no one outside the football offices even knew he was injured until he had surgery a few weeks after the national championship game.
“I came back for a reason. I came back to not only help myself this year in the draft, but to also win a national championship. That was the main thing for all of us,” Bryant said. “We wanted to get this team back to the top of the mountain and if I could walk, I was going to be on the field.
“I wanted to do what was best for the team and not myself.”
It was an unselfish attitude, and one NFL scouts and general managers don’t see as often anymore.
Bryant at first played through a lot of pain. He did not practice much during the week and on game days he would take a shot prior to kickoff to num the pain.
“I was very limited in practice when it happened. I had to go throughout the week of just feeling the pain because you can’t get a shot every single day for practice,” he said. “But before games I got a shot to kind of mask the pain and then my adrenaline kicked in and it kind of helped me a little bit. But then after the game of course it was hurting.
“Throughout the course of the season and then later it got, I could not even feel it anymore. It was a struggle, but it was all worth it.”
Though Bryant was in pain, his stats did not show it. In fact, the defensive end’s numbers were better after his injury.
Before the pec injury, Bryant had six tackles for loss and three sacks. After the injury he had 8.5 tackles for loss and five sacks.
It’s those facts Bryant points too when he is asked if he is concerned the injury will prevent him from being drafted high in next month’s NFL Draft.
“Evaluators, my agent, people that I confine in, they told me (NFL) people really don’t care,” he said. “Actually, it has been a plus to see a guy play with a torn pec at my position and use that arm in every single play because I am a left end and I used my right hand. So, they actually think it was really great and my stats went up after the injury.
“It has actually been more of a positive than a negative.”
Bryant admits he is disappointed in the fact he has not been able to participate in the draft process. The injury forced him to sit out of combine work outs in February and then Thursday’s pro day in Clemson.
“It’s been different because growing up you think it is going to be a process where you are working out for teams or going to combine and working out at pro day and then when you are not afforded that opportunity because of an injury you chose to play with it during the season, it kind of hurts,” he said. “But at the same time, I still have been able to enjoy the process and still help my draft stock as much as I can without performing for coaches, scouts and GMs. It has definitely been a different process then the others get to go through. But I have been dealt my hand, so I am playing my cards.”
But what evaluators and scouts to have on Bryant is two years of film in which he was one of the most dominating defensive ends in the ACC and was a First-Team All-American.
“I put two years of good film out there and at the end of the day, I don’t think a team is going to draft a guy just because of what he did in underwear and shorts,” he said. “At the end of the day, everyone that is getting drafted and evaluated, ninety-percent of it is what you put on film. I did my ninety percent. I was not allowed to put my ten percent out there. It is what it is.”