By Joe Scalzo
Youngstown State’s Kyle Bryant has dreamed of being an NFL player since he was a kid growing up in Detroit.
He can’t believe how close he is to that dream.
“That’s the crazy, surprising thing to me,” he said. “It all went so fast. It feels like I was just a college freshman and now I’m close to graduating, preparing for the next level.
“There’s a lot coming at me and I’m grateful for it.”
Bryant, a 6-foot-7, 320-pound offensive tackle, will play in the 88th East-West Shrine Game on Jan. 18 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. It is the longest-running college all-star football game in the country.
More than 100 players from last year’s East-West Shrine Game signed with NFL teams in 2013. Of the postseason all-star games, only the Senior Bowl is more prestigious.
“That was one of the biggest surprises to me — the magnitude of the game,” Bryant said. “I feel like it showed good on my behalf, to be in that group of guys.
“I knew I’d play in an all-star game. I didn’t know it would be one of this magnitude.”
Three Penguins played in all-star games last fall. Running back Jamaine Cook (who is now on the Browns’ practice squad) and offensive guard Lamar Mady (who plays for the Raiders) both played in the Texas vs. the Nation game, while tight end Will Shaw (who was in camp with the Steelers and Eagles last summer) played in the Casino Del Sol College All-Star Game.
Bryant is the only Penguin to earn an all-star invite so far this offseason, but players such as center Chris Elkins and punter Nick Liste, among others, could draw interest from NFL scouts.
Bryant transferred to YSU from Bowling Green in the summer of 2012. He was a member of the Falcons’ program from 2009-11. He saw his most action as a redshirt sophomore in 2011 when he started six games at left tackle. He was dismissed from the team in the offseason for an undisclosed violation of team rules.
When asked if he worried his NFL dreams were over at that point, Bryant said, “I may have had some doubts, but I never thought about that. I just thought about what I could do from then on to make things better.”
As a junior in 2012, Bryant played in all 11 contests and started the final six at left tackle. In 2013, Bryant started and played in 10 contests for the Penguins at left tackle. He started the first five games of the season before missing two with an injury. He returned to start the final five contests at left tackle.
He’s closing in on a degree in general studies — he may switch to communications — and plans to stay enrolled in the spring while he trains for the NFL.
“Since I stopped playing ball, I took maybe six days off,” he said. “I’ve been working every day, even if it’s nothing too hard. Just trying to get better at something, even if it’s something small.”
Bryant credits his family and his faith for getting him to this point, and is grateful for the opportunity to play at YSU.
“They embraced me and took me in as one of their own,” he said. “All the guys on the team and the coaching staff, they played a tremendous role in my growth as a person and a football player.”