Countdown 2007: Bryant ready to fight

He didn't have a chance to play in "12-7" last year, but after sitting out for that game in 2006, there's not much that will keep him out of the sequel at Kyle Field this November. Aggie Websider's Dallas Shipp caught up with Bryant at Big 12 Media Days about missing that game and getting ready for 2007.

SAN ANTONIO, Texas—Where were you for ‘12-7?' Were you standing next to me in the corner of Texas' Memorial Stadium? Were you watching from your couch, wondering what to do with yourself when McGee hurdled over a Texas linebacker and into the endzone for the lead?

It's extremely doubtful that you were one of the few who actually suited up for the maroon and white that day.

Neither did Red Bryant.

After starting nine games for the Aggies in 2006, Bryant underwent season-ending knee surgery and was forced to watch the biggest win under Franchione from the sideline, which was quite a blow for the emotional defensive tackle from Jasper.

"I never let me teammates see it, but it was tough," Bryant said, "probably one of my toughest times since I've been in college, but I'm glad I went through it. It made me a stronger person, it made me put things in perspective and know not to take this game for granted. It could end for any of us."

In addition to making him a stronger person, Bryant said that he was able to learn a lot from his teammates, and they realized that they were capable of getting the job done without him.

Texas A&M head coach Dennis Franchione said that his biggest concern when Bryant went down with the knee injury was replacing the leadership that the then-junior defensive tackle brought to the table.

"When you lose Red Bryant, you've lost a great person and a great leader on your team," Franchione said. "Our players look to Red for leadership, and when he wasn't there, other people had to try to absorb that. And I didn't know if anybody could absorb what Red Bryant meant to his football team, as a leader, and, of course, as a player."

But Bryant and Franchione both learned a little something from the rest of the defensive unit after the injury, which will make the A&M defense even deeper in 2007.

"I learned more about my teammates and what they have in them," he said. "They could have felt sorry for me, they could have been worried about me, but they had to move on and I respect that. They had a task to do and it did more for me just to watch them fight."

Senior defensive end Chris Harrington, one of the players who really stepped up on defense after Bryant went down, is looking forward to having his partner line up by his side again and terrorizing opposing offenses.

"He's such a passionate person to have him back out there is going to be a great asset to our team," Harrington said. "It's really going to take some of the focus off me (as well). It's going to be hard for offensive lines to block us, especially after we start working some of our games. I'm looking forward to it."

Bryant is looking forward to it as well, and for the first time since he started playing organized football, he's also looking forward to the unthinkable.

"If you ever played this game, you know you hate practice, but I can't wait to go to practice," Bryant said with a grin that stretched from ear to ear. "No one ever talks about practice but I'm fired up. I'm ready (to hit someone). I'm pretty sure I'm going to get into a lot of fights at practice."

But along with his newfound love for hitting people (even on his own team), the 6-foot-5, 324 pound gentle giant (off the field) from Jasper has a new perspective—on football and on life—after going through the last year of rehabilitation and sitting out of the game that he loves most.

"One minute you're on top of the world and the next you're nobody, and that's just motivated me to just enjoy the moment," he said. "I work hard and leave it in God's hands. My favorite saying is ‘what God has for me is for me.' I know I'm going to leave everything I've got out there on the field and I'm going to be the best I can be this year for my teammates. If I do that we'll be alright."

If he does that, maybe this year he'll get to enjoy another victory against arch-rival Texas. But this time, he'll be suited up, and you can bet that he'll be ready to hit someone.

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