April 7, 2014 // Notre Dame Football

Greg Bryant Shows the Virtue of Patience

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Greg Bryant - Notre Dame RB

(Photo: Robin Alam / IconSMI)

When Brian Kelly was announced as the next head coach of the University of Notre Dame, one of the key areas stressed was the importance of player development, a point of emphasis that had been sorely lacking for the Fighting Irish. A critical component of Kelly’s development plan in South Bend thus far has been his ability to instill patience in his players.

Troy Niklas was a 4-star recruit from Anaheim, CA recruited as an offensive tackle. Upon his arrival, and due to his extreme athleticism, Niklas became a part of Kelly’s “big skill” position grouping and ultimately transitioned from the offensive line to outside linebacker, recording 20 tackles as a true freshman. His versatility and coachability provided him an opportunity to switch to the offensive side of the ball yet again his sophomore year to the tight end position, and by the end of his junior season Niklas had continued Notre Dame’s tradition as “Tight End U” after the torch was passed on to him by NFL predecessors Anthony Fasano, John Carlson, Kyle Rudolph and Tyler Eifert.

Niklas’ story of patience is just one of many that has been replicated many times over since Brian Kelly’s arrival. Stephon Tuitt, a Georgia native, briefly decommitted from Notre Dame in favor of Georgia Tech during his recruitment, a destination that would have allowed him the luxury of staying closer to family. Instead, Kelly and staff convinced Tuitt to step out of his comfort zone on his way to an All-American career and a soon-to-be NFL roster.

Louis Nix flirted with the idea of leaving Notre Dame before he became a fan favorite and widely-speculated first round NFL draft selection.

“I do it for my family,” Nix told reporters when he arrived at spring practice in 2012, opting to stick it out with Notre Dame. “I keep my head on straight, I’ll be fine. I’m here. That’s all that matters.”

Battling through obstacles only to thrive has been a common theme that has once again reappeared in the form of Notre Dame redshirt freshman running back, Greg Bryant. Bryant arrived on campus last summer with the distinction of being the highest rated running back the Fighting Irish had signed within the Internet era. Anticipated to be a key contributor to the Fighting Irish’s rushing attack, Bryant’s season would instead be filled with frustration and setbacks.

The blue chip freshman was forced to redshirt after struggling with tendonitis in his right knee, though physical pain may have been secondary to the difficultly of acclimating to Bryant’s new surroundings. In addition to adjusting to a rigorous academic workload, Bryant had to endure pangs of homesickness while living through one of the worst South Bend winters in decades, a tough situation for any individual, let alone a Florida native.

Bryant’s struggles were unrelenting, even following him to his hometown, the one place where he should have been offered asylum from the pressures of major college football.

“I went back home in the spring and they’re like, ‘Oh man, what happened? You’re not the same player that you were before,” Bryant told ESPN.

The stumbling blocks and doubt have fueled the now-healthy Bryant, whose talent and determination have begun to make its presence known on the practice field. Notre Dame offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock did not appear the least bit reticent when describing Bryant as “an incredibly explosive athlete.”

The difference with Bryant’s play on the football field extends beyond a healthy knee – it indicates a healthy psyche.

“I think he’s really got the whole college experience and handling the academics and being away from home and the weather – I think he’s acclimated quite well to all of those things. So now I think he feels like it’s smooth sailing for him. He can just focus on football,” Brian Kelly said to the media in regard to the emerging Floridian.

Kelly’s assessment seems to line up with Bryant’s own version of events.

“All that stuff, all of that negativity just gave me the hunger now not to go back that way and just to come and make a big impact and show people what I can do, because honestly people are sleeping on me right now, so I’m just hungry,” Bryant said.

Bryant’s emergence has become one of the leading stories of spring practice, and reports of his progress will surely make him one of the must-watch participants of Notre Dame’s annual Blue-Gold game on April 12.

The former 5-star running back is poised to make critics eat their words from the previous season, and Notre Dame fans couldn’t be happier.

Scott Janssen is a blogger for the Huffington Post and has authored several nationally-featured articles, including an appearance on MSNBC as a sports contributor. He talks football 24 hours a day, much to the chagrin of his fiancée. Scott can be reached at scottjanssenhp@gmail.com.

Comments to this Article

  • Michael the Archangel commented on April 7th, 2014 at 9:57 am

    With an emerging developing O-line and mobile QBs with the potential
    to open up defenses with their abilities to run and pass, the three-headed RB
    threat of Tarean, Cam, and Greg Bryant should be fun to watch.

    After the several recent defections and early-outs, this post fuels hope.

    Every Freshman has adjustments to make. Bryant sounds ready to contribute:
    “Scoring 31 and still not done”
    will be a needed ingredient for winning
    while the new young D’ develops,
    and Bryant will be a significant catalyst in making ND the scoring machine
    we all hoped for since Kelly was first introduced as the head coach.

    [Reply]

  • Rich commented on April 7th, 2014 at 11:32 am

    Let’s hope he stays healthy and shows what he is really made of. The three headed monster, Tarean, Bryant and Cam could be unstoppable for the Irish this season. You can never have too many backs. Injuries can destroy a season especially if you do not have enough running backs. Go Irish!

    [Reply]

  • Geoff G commented on April 7th, 2014 at 12:06 pm

    I am really excited to see Tarean and Bryant compliment each other on the field this season. Of course Cam is going to get his touches as well. I hope BK utilizes the talent in the backfield efficiently and it helps us win football games.

    From a raw talent and athletic standpoint, Tarean and Bryant should see the bulk of carries. Just have to hope they can both pick up the Xs and Os of the offense and understand how important pass protection is. If they don’t pick up the fundamentals (Cierre Wood) then we are going to be seeing much more of Cam than we are anticipating.

    [Reply]

  • duranko commented on April 7th, 2014 at 1:09 pm

    Bryant, and Alford and Kelly, and Bryant’s Dad, most probably, deserve
    much credit for the aplomb with which Greg executed waiting out 2013.

    In modernity, it’s a “play me now” ethic. But Greg naturally bristled at waiting, but executed, in the the end, the patience which Scott highlights.

    When the saga of the Kelly era is recorded, it will be ironic that Cam McDaniel did not redshirt but that Greg Bryant did.

    It will be a three-headed monster, and each will prosper.

    [Reply]

    Michael the Archangel replied on April 9th, 2014 at 11:14 am

    Looking ahead, I’m betting neither Bryant nor Zaire will be around for their fifth year. As three and out becomes more the new standard for college football stars, red-shirting ultimately re-inforces three and out, even when they are seniors and graduates. Tuitt and Niklas without their degree, and Nix with it, having red-shirted, all participated only three years. The Zach Martins are becoming the dinosaurs in athletes’ race to the NFL. Barring injury, it would be wise to play any Frosh with star potential who’ll be leaving their third or fourth year anyway, as I suspect BK will learn to do in the future.

    [Reply]

  • storespook commented on April 7th, 2014 at 7:32 pm

    I think there is a HECK OF A LOT of talent waiting at RB this year. Finally with the type of QB and a good receiving corp, hopefully, this year will be the emergence of the offense we as fans have been waiting for 5 years since Kelly’s arrival. I just feel real good about it.

    Go Irish

    [Reply]

  • HURLS commented on April 7th, 2014 at 9:58 pm

    These are the modern-day “3 Horsemen” for NotaDame. (I’m from Boston; thus spelling) ESPECIALLY since Everett worked on his throwing so intensely – and we already know about his running proficiency – this is going to be a lot of fun to watch. I CAN – NOT – WAIT until we drill the Maizetard Bluesers right into the ground, where those vermin belong. LEM-ME HEAR AN “AMEN”!

    [Reply]

    Ron Burgundy replied on April 8th, 2014 at 9:44 am

    Wait a minute, you’re from Boston? No way!
    Pahk the cah in the Hahvad Yahd.

    [Reply]

    HURLS replied on April 8th, 2014 at 4:59 pm

    “Amen” I say to you!” I’m a Domer. DAD went to Hahvid.

    [Reply]

  • duranko commented on April 8th, 2014 at 2:27 pm

    Golson is a decent runner, but he is several classes below Mariotta and
    Manziel as a runner.

    Notwithstanding, the offense is ready to explode.

    [Reply]

  • clubgitmo commented on April 9th, 2014 at 12:45 am

    This kid can be the real deal.

    [Reply]

  • Shazamrock commented on April 11th, 2014 at 6:51 am

    I’ve heard that Zaire possesses true running ability not
    seen at ND since the days of Tony Rice.

    They also say his passing is pretty darn good as well.

    If that’s true, that’s far too much talent to be left standing on
    the sidelines holding a clipboard.

    [Reply]

  • bj commented on April 11th, 2014 at 11:32 am

    bleacher says in five years kelly has never been able to find a punt returner, no schoen, no brown, no rocket, this guy is a joke

    [Reply]

    Ron Burgundy replied on April 11th, 2014 at 3:55 pm

    Confucius say man with hole in pocket feel lucky all day. I believe he also said you can’t win a championship if you can’t grow grass.

    [Reply]

  • duranko commented on April 11th, 2014 at 5:09 pm

    Well, then bleacher report is just plain wrong. Kelly found a punt returner, his name was Isaiah McKenzie. What Kelly’s staff could not do was keep McKenzie corralled.

    They’ve probably found another one in the Newsome kid from Aledo, TX. Getting him away from Charley Strong is another kettle of fish.

    Confucius, in an obscure text offered that those who actually BELIEVE
    bleacher report are the people who can’t figure out why gullible is not in the dictionary.

    [Reply]

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