Red Bryant has been preparing for the NFL Combine this week following a college career where he manhandled offensive linemen with a take-no-prisoners attitude. The feisty defensive tackle out of Texas A&M has earned a reputation as one of the big-time run-stuffers in this year's draft class after making 46 stops during his senior year, including 6 tackles for a loss, a sack.
His nasty streak and emotional pitch on the field is immediately noticeable as the action unfolds during a game or practice. But when he walks off the field, he gains the attention of those around him for an entirely different reason.
Simply put, Red Bryant is the kind of guy you'd hate to see lining up across from you on the football field. But he's the kind of guy you'd be proud to know off the field.
"Big Red" talked to me recently about the difference between the man and the beast during this exclusive Scout.com interview.
Ed Thompson: What's this process been like for you as you get ready for the Combine in Indianapolis?
Red Bryant: It's a little stressful. There are no guarantees. You continue to work hard and try to give yourself the best opportunity. I've been enjoying the process, getting the opportunity to play in the Senior Bowl and to go to the Combine is really fun even if it is a bit stressful.
Thompson: What makes you so effective on the inside of the defensive line?
Bryant: I feel like having the ability, strength and size to take multiple guys on, take on double-teams, and being able to hold the point of attack. And by holding the point of attack, I'm able to help my team by stopping offensive lineman from getting up to the linebackers.
Thompson: A lot of people think of you as a guy that just clogs up the middle, but you're also a guy that can get in the backfield.
Bryant: Yes sir. I had a real tough time these past seasons because I was coming off a major injury and I wasn't fully healthy yet. That's really why I feel like I have to work so hard to prove I'm healthy again. For my size, one of my main strengths is how well I'm able to move. I don't believe people realize I move pretty well being 320 pounds.
Red Bryant stops Oklahoma State RB Dantrell Savage for a loss.
(AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Thompson: You had a great year in 2007, despite having an ACL tear in 2006.
Bryant: Performance wise, I had a good year. But I feel like I could have been more dominant. I watch guys like Glenn Dorsey and I see how they're able to take the entire game, and I didn't feel like I had the ability to take the whole game. I put up good numbers, but I never felt like my old self. I finally got healthy again and I was able to demonstrate that I am explosive and I am very athletic at the Senior Bowl.
Thompson: You blocked three kicks during your collegiate career. What's you knack for making that big play?
Bryant: I really believe it's just effort. My coach always used to tell us a lot of guys like to take plays off on field goals, and that would be the best opportunity for you to contribute to the outcome of the game. It's really come down to pride and effort. I take advantage of an opportunity to try to have an impact on the game.
Thompson: Talk about how you've developed your skills to use your upper body to shed blocks.
Bryant: I really feel like I had a lot of great coaches; it started in junior high and all the way to the college level. They taught me how to play with leverage, how to shield people, how to use your opponent to make a play by shoving your guy in the gap and making the running back have to pick a lane and dance in the gap. When I went on to college, my coaches did a great job of teaching me how to shoot my hands and lower my hips. I feel like they contributed to a lot of my success out on the field of making plays in the backfield and being strong at the point of attack.
Thompson: Your leadership ability also stands out. How would you describe your leadership style?
Bryant: I really feel like my leadership style is leading by
example. I never try to be someone I'm not. Every team I've been on from
junior high to high school to college I've tried to just be me, and I think
people respect that. I wouldn't ask anybody to do anything I wouldn't do. I'm
not going to miss a drill, so I don't expect the next guy to miss a drill. I'm
going to give everything I've got, win, lose, or draw, so I expect everyone else
to give everything they've got. I like to
put their burdens on my back, I like the responsibility of being a leader and
inspiring other people to be the very best that they can be.
Thompson: What's the story behind your nickname?
Bryant: When I was a baby, my mom said I was a red baby and it took off from there. I don't believe my mom ever called me by my first name, Joseph. She always called me her red baby and it just stuck with me.
Thompson: You like to be feisty and mix it up out on the field, but you're quite different off of the field...
Bryant: On the field I like to describe myself as an animal. That's how I take it to the game — it's me against you. It's almost like a survival mechanism kicks in. I get to be a beast and a bully on the field. Off the field, it's about my upbringing. I credit my mom with me being the person I am today. She taught me treat people like you want to be treated. She taught me character is what you are when no one's looking. So I try to carry myself like my mama did. People can admire and look at me and say that guy really has his head on straight, but on the football field it's the total opposite. I want to be an animal out there, it's no-holds-barred. I'm trying to take you out. But off the field, I'm just like anybody else — just a normal guy.
Thompson: At the Senior Bowl, you and Chris Williams went head-to-head during a drill and things sort of erupted. What set that off?
Bryant: At the Senior Bowl I feel like you have the opportunity to show everyone what you're made of. In one-on-one drills, I got the best of him on that particular play. And when I was going back to the huddle, I just happened to turn around and it felt like he was charging me and was going to jump on me — so I beat him to the punch. I jumped on him and it's all a comparative balance. Somebody has to lose, and on that particular play, I got the best of him and you know how your tempers are. I felt like he was going to do something more to me, so I beat him to the punch.
Thompson: I asked your head coach at the Senior Bowl, Mike Nolan of the 49ers, when he sees something like that as an NFL coach, does he get excited about it because it shows passion and fire, or is it something that concerns him. He basically said he likes to see that kind of spirit in a player, but he looks to see if they're exchanging body blows or swinging at the head because he doesn't want guys swinging at each others' helmets and maybe breaking their hand.
Bryant: [laughing] Yeah, that's something I have to learn because I hadn't actually seen the video, but people were calling me and were saying it looked like I was trying to break his face mask.
Bryant sacks the quarterback and forces a fumble in 2005.
(AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Thompson: Did you feel like you helped your draft stock that week?
Bryant: You know, I had a lot of questions asked health-wise, but I've played 47 career games and I've only missed four. I've only had injury in my entire career and that was my ACL. I missed four games and had to rehab. I came back in nine months and didn't miss one day of practice. I went through the entire fall camp, went through the whole season, probably played over 200 snaps this past season and never complained. Coming off of an ACL, it usually takes about a year-and-a-half to two years before you start feeling great again. So for me, to hear people criticize my durability or call me soft, sometimes it offended me. I feel like I'm a competitor, I feel like I'm extremely tough, and I feel like I had an opportunity to show Coach Nolan and his staff how tough I was. I got an opportunity to show the other scouts how tough I am. And it was a great honor, as well as a privilege, to have the opportunity to do that.
Thompson: What is the number one thing you want coaches and GMs to know about you?
Bryant: That I'm a high-character guy. I set goals that are extremely high. I want more out of football. I don't want to have an average career, I want to have an impact on the game, go to the Pro Bowl. I want to use football as a pilaster, because later in life I see myself doing social work and working with teens. I really want to work with teens who feel like they don't have a hope, work with teens and still go to school because it's well documented that I have a learning disability. I want to be a beacon of hope for people who feel like they don't have a voice to let them know that if Red Bryant can do it — if Red Bryant can face adversity, come from tough situations, and go get every opportunity he had in front of him — then you can do it. I really want the NFL teams to know that if I was given the opportunity to join one of their clubs, not only are they getting a great guy, they're getting a guy who's going to give them everything he's got, who is going to make plays, is coachable, and really just wants to surround himself with successful people.
Thompson: When did you realize that you had dyslexia, and how did you overcome it? Because I really admire what you've accomplished in school and with your playbook knowing that you've had to battle through that adversity.
Bryant: I was in a great support group. With my learning disability — from junior high all the way through high school — I had people like the counselors. One person who sticks out in my heart, I call her my godmother, is Sue Bruce. She was my English teacher and she just inspired me. She always told me, "You're smart, you just learn differently. There's nothing wrong with you." She helped me with the process of finding schools, and I was blessed to go to Texas A&M. Any recruit who's looking for a great place to play football and get a great degree, A&M is the spot. They have great resources with tutors, whatever accommodation you need. Through the student services for disability, I had every avenue to be successful. It wasn't always needed, but when it was, I had people helping me through the times when I just wanted to give up and quit who would always be there pushing me. It's a tremendous blessing to me to be able to have great people around me, and that's really why I was able to succeed in college and on the football field. I've been real blessed.