Sitting at home last New Year's Eve, suspended from Clemson's Chick-fil-A Bowl win over LSU, the Tigers' junior wide receiver had to deal with the fact that he had disappointed his mother.
"My mom was crying about it," he said. "I had to see her face crying, and I can't accept that. Can't go through it again. I can't think about it."
Bryant used her anguish as fuel for what he and Clemson coaches and teammates hope is a career turnaround. Following two disappointing seasons pocked with flashes of brilliance, the junior is working as a starter in DeAndre Hopkins' old wide receiver role.
He says he has changed, although those assertions won't be proved until Bryant lives up to the hype as a four-star recruit who signed with Dabo Swinney's program three years ago.
"It's just me focusing, taking my classwork more seriously, taking football more seriously," he said. "That's all it was. Just being committed."
A year ago, Bryant averaged 30.5 yards per reception, but his 2012 was decidedly inconsistent. He missed two games while recovering from groin surgery related to a weight-room incident, and made only 10 receptions. He played five games without making a catch.
In mid-December, Swinney announced that he was suspended for "academic reasons" – which included skipping study halls.
"At some point, enough is enough," Swinney told reporters. "Martavis is a good young man. We have study hall rules that you have to follow here. And when you are just kind of habitual in breaking those rules it gets in my hands and that is kind of where it's at. He just hasn't done what he needs to do from a team standpoint and academically. It was a decision that was made and hopefully he will learn from and decide that he wants to be a student."
Following final exams, Swinney and Bryant spoke in Swinney's office.
"He took time out to talk to me right before I went home on break for the bowl game," he said. "It was very motivating to go home for the break and think about things, and come back focused."
By all accounts, he did exactly that this spring and summer, showing up consistently as one of the most improved players in coaches and teammates' comments.
"I came to every workout, got stronger, got faster, got more focused," he said.
With Hopkins now in the Houston Texans' training camp as a first-round draft pick, there's room in the Tigers' passing game for another standout receiver, and fans have focused on Bryant and fellow former four-star recruit Charone Peake as the prime candidates.
Bryant says he's capable of being an every-down, consistent receiver, saying "I want to be a guy they can count on."
"I could have did it all the other years, too," he said. "I just wasn't focused and they didn't trust me. Now they trust me and I'll be running all of those other routes now. They see it in me now."
For his coaches, it's wait-and-see, but Bryant is clearly off to a promising start.
"The guys said he's really worked hard. Martavis has had two really good days, really good days," offensive coordinator Chad Morris said. "But again, that's just two good days. We'll see. He's a guy that's got a lot to prove. He's learned the hard way that this is the way we do the system. He's done everything he's been asked to do."
Bryant's focused, serious
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