Recruiting a learning experience for American Heritage's Greg Bryant
Tuesday, February 05, 2013
by Matt Porter
American Heritage running back Greg Bryant prefers to keep things low-key, but that's become hard in his senior year.
Last month, his return flight from the U.S. Army All-American Game in San Antonio to Fort Lauderdale was packed with Notre Dame fans bound for the BCS National Championship. It only took them a few moments to notice - and heartily salute -- their prized running back recruit.
He smiled and waved, then found his seat. The passenger next to him was a die-hard Irish fan, too. And talkative. For a kid who prefers to relax by grabbing his headphones and riding his long-board around Delray Beach, the attention has been an adjustment.
"Everywhere I go, somebody stops me and they want to have a conversation," he said. "I've basically got used to it."
If Bryant has the career at Notre Dame he intends to, he'd better.
When he committed to the Irish in December, he said, "I was thinking, I could be a legend at this school. They've had some good running backs coming through there, like Jerome Bettis, but not really great running backs coming through there."
If that sounds like a large burden for someone to place on themselves, it is. But Bryant has thought that way since his eighth-grade year, when he first played for Heritage's varsity. It's how he rushed for more than 4,800 yards and 60 touchdowns, with 1,000-plus receiving yards, and won two state championships in his career. It's why Bryant envisions rivals like Glades Day's Kelvin Taylor when Bryant trains, imagining how hard Taylor is running and running harder.
"He's a freak," American Heritage assistant coach Brad Tremper said. "He can't get enough of it. He's a machine."
He's one of the cornerstones of Notre Dame's consensus top-five signing class, a potential every-down back who could play immediately. With Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood, who helped the Irish get to the title game, headed to the NFL Draft, the 5-foot-11, 193-pound Bryant could get plenty of touches.
After Bryant had 243 yards and three touchdowns in a 2011 state championship win, he learned everything he wanted to about college football recruiting.
After that performance, the heavyweights in every major conference -- Pac-12, SEC, Big 10, Big 12 -- came to talk to him. He went to visit Oklahoma in March, still green about the recruiting process. By the end of the campus tour, he gave coaches his verbal commitment.
"Schools can really get into your head when they're talking to you," Bryant said. "They'll really make you believe something."
His July decommitment from Oklahoma introduced him to the ugly side of recruiting: a barrage of sometimes-angry, sometimes-pleading online messages from fans. In the fall, when the nation's largest programs wouldn't stop showing up in Delray Beach, he learned how grueling it can be.
"It was crazy," he said. "I was getting called out of class five times every period. I wouldn't ever want to go through that again."
He eventually narrowed his choices to Auburn, South Carolina, Florida State and Southern Cal. But in December, Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly and his staff touted their academics, in addition to tradition and a shot at early playing time.
"Say stuff doesn't work out," he said. "I'm not the great football player I was supposed to be. I've still got something to fall back on in a Notre Dame degree."
There was one more lesson he learned in his senior season.
Heritage was blowing out King's Academy 49-0 at halftime of a Sept. 21 game. It was the weekend of Bryant's 18th birthday, and he had three touchdowns at halftime. He sent a boastful tweet about the score, proclaiming, "Im ready to start my bday weekend."
Bryant, previously nothing but humble, forever deflecting all credit to his offensive linemen and coaches and parents and teachers, had created a small firestorm.
"I was excited," he said. "I thought it was no big deal. After the game, I come back and check my Twitter, and they blew me up. ... That was a lesson learned right there."
So don't expect Bryant to publicly gripe about his carries at Notre Dame. At this rate, anyway, he won't have much to complain about.