As the NFL Draft slowly but surely approaches, football fans across America have already begun to nervously squirm in their collective La-Z-Boys as the days of the league’s lockout pile up. Add Northwestern defensive tackle and draft prospect Corbin Bryant to that list of those waiting for a speedy resolution.
“Oh man, I’m hoping that it gets cleared up real soon,” Bryant said of the lockout. “I’m hearing it could go all the way up until late July. Hopefully this weekend or into next week they can come to an agreement so myself and others can get at the dream.”
The dream that Bryant speaks of is becoming an NFL player. However, it is a dream that has not lasted as long as some might think. While many of the prospects that will hear their name called in two weeks put on their first pair of pads in a Pop Warner league, Bryant did not begin playing football until his senior year of high school. Curiosity got Bryant on the field, although he could have never anticipated it would have become a future career option.
“I just wanted to have fun my senior year,” Bryant said. “I just didn’t want to have any regrets not playing, so I just went out there, gave it a shot, and I was pretty good at it.”
Bryant was so impressive that he received an offer from Pat Fitzgerald to come to Northwestern with only one year under his immense belt. He then went on to achieve a remarkable career, especially considering how it started. Bryant broke his leg during his freshman year, yet ended up starting every game of his junior and senior seasons, including his final 35 in a row.
Although he experienced his fair share of success on the gridiron in Evanston, nothing is guaranteed in the pros, not even a roster spot. ESPN currently has Bryant ranked 34th out of the defensive tackles in the draft, which would most likely leave him off of any team’s big board. However, he refuses to let that faze him.
“I won’t be nervous,” he said. “I’m confident in my abilities and if somebody is willing to take a chance on me, I’m going to be very excited to go ahead and take on another challenge.”
Bryant is clearly optimistic about his future in professional football. But Wildcat fans may be even more excited about his optimism surrounding his now former team.
“I think they have a good run at winning it all this year,” he said, in reference to a Big Ten Championship. “They have a lot of experience. A lot of good young guys stepping up.” He mentioned sophomore defensive lineman Tyler Scott, one of his potential replacements, as a young player to keep an eye on.
A Big Ten title, especially one during the first year the conference expands to 12 teams and two divisions, would certainly be a remarkable story for a school that has infamously not won a bowl game since 1949. Now that he is gone from the team, that first bowl win is something Bryant will not get the chance to be a part of. In his last three years as a Wildcat, Bryant was a large part of why Northwestern went to a bowl game three consecutive times for the first time in program history. But despite coming up short in those games, Bryant refuses to see those losses as failures.
“I don’t have any regrets about that,” he said. “We went out there, we gave it our best shot. You can’t win every game.”
At this point, Bryant is just hoping to have the chance to play as many more games as possible. If a career in the NFL does not work out, he will have options to fall back on. Bryant is currently pursuing his master’s degree in Sports Administration at Northwestern’s School of Continuing Studies. He was also named to the Academic All-Big Ten Team in each of his years as a player. But, as with his academics, Bryant remains focused on the task at hand.
As he puts it, “It’s strictly football now.”