When Austin Bryant tore his pectoral muscle during Clemson’s Week 10 win over Louisville in 2018, 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 2019 CFP National Championship win over Alabama.
“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, one that is seen less and less in today’s “me first” world of college and professional athletics.
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 the 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.
During his career at Clemson, Bryant was a First-Team All-American by the Football Writers Association and the Walter Camp Foundation in 2017. He also earned third team honors from the Associated Press that season.
In 2017, Bryant had a breakout season. In 14 games, he had 58 tackles, including 15.5 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks. He also had one interception, broke up two passes and had 12 quarterback pressures.
During the 2018 season, despite playing six games with his injury, he recorded 44 tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss, eight sacks and 12 quarterback pressures. In the 2019 NFL Draft, Bryant was selected in the fourth round (117th overall) by the Detroit Lions.
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