Harrison Bryant was an offensive tackle at a small high school through his junior year. But a positional switch and a lone FBS opportunity launched Bryant on a path toward the NFL.
Bryant starred at Florida Atlantic before being selected in the fourth round of the 2020 NFL Draft by the Browns. He’s now involved in a playoff push by Cleveland, which is in the midst of its best season in more than a decade. Bryant’s role could increase down the stretch, too, with starting tight end Austin Hooper dealing with a neck injury.
Here’s what you need to know about Bryant, who took an unconventional path to the National Football League.
1. First Florida Atlantic consensus All-American
Bryant caught 45 passes for 662 yards as a junior in a run-heavy FAU offense that was led by current Bills running back Devin Singletary. Charlie Weis Jr. and his staff joked that Bryant could win the John Mackey award for nation’s best tight end as a senior, according to cleveland.com, even though no Group of 5 TE had ever done so.
As you’re probably guessing, Bryant went out and won the Mackey Award his senior year with 65 catches for 1,004 yards and seven touchdowns. He was the first FAU player to be named a consensus first-team All-American. Pro Football Focus named him Conference USA’s Player of the Year. Bryant couldn’t go without notice after such a huge year in a modern college football that frequently ignores the tight ends.
2. An offensive tackle until senior year of high school
Bryant transfered to John Milledge Academy in Georgia as a junior as a 6-5, 240-pound teenager. He immediately stepped in for the football team at defensive line and offensive tackle. The next steps in Bryant’s football life came in part because of a big deficit in the postseason.
It was the second round of the playoffs and Milledge trailed by 20 points, so Bryant began reporting as a tackle-eligible player, and he caught two touchdowns. That spurred the move to tight end for Bryant’s senior year.
“We had been going back and forth and, as athletic as he was, we looked at it and he had been on me a little bit about it,” Milledge coach J.T. Wall told Cleveland.com, “so we toyed with the idea and it was a pretty good move for all parties involved.”
3. A graduate of a 23-person high school class
Speaking of Milledge: Bryant wasn’t at a classic football power. He told cleveland.com that his high school graduating class featured 23 kids, and the football team normally rosters between 40 and 50 players.
Bryant’s transfer to Milledge was in part due to its high academic standards, per cleveland.com, and it wound up giving him a chance to shine in a small pond. Travis Trickett, who recruited Bryant to FAU, was originally on the Samford staff and likely would’ve brought Bryant there before he joined the Owls at Florida Atlantic. Bryant’s only FBS offer was FAU, likely in part because of the small-school competition he faced.
4. An important backup to Austin Hooper
Through 13 weeks, Bryant’s served as a solid backup to big-money signing Austin Hooper in Cleveland. But Hooper’s neck injury is expected to keep him out in Week 14, a big game for the Browns on Monday Night Football against the Ravens. That means Bryant has a chance to step into a bigger role.
Overall, Bryant has 16 catches for 164 yards and three touchdowns. His biggest game came in a divisional contest with Hooper out, though, a good omen for Bryant against the Ravens. In Week 7 against the Bengals, Bryant caught four passes for 56 yards and two touchdowns. For Cleveland to keep its strong playoff positioning and best season in more than a decade on the right track, it could use a similar performance from Bryant.