Bryant, Breeland climbing upward to reach their dreams of NFL draft selection
CLEMSON — For Martavis Bryant, it had to be a decision blending business with personal needs.
As much as the blossoming Clemson wide receiver felt he could have continued to emerge with one more year in college as the presumed “guy” in the Tigers’ passing game, it was time to go to the NFL.
“I talked with my mom and grandma a lot about my decision,” Bryant told The Post and Courier in a weekend phone interview. “I didn’t do it just to go; I had a legitimate reason to go and do it for my family.”
Bryant has two young daughters, acknowledging in fall camp last August that he’s driven by “my kids, my family.” That was at a time when Bryant appeared to be the third or fourth option in Clemson’s aerial attack, coming off a 10-reception season (albeit with 30 yards per catch.)
But with Charone Peake tearing his ACL in mid-September, Bryant’s opportunity arrived, and he finished his junior year with 42 catches for 828 yards and seven touchdowns — all figures ranking second on the Tigers behind All-American Sammy Watkins.
Bryant’s teammate, Bashaud Breeland, also made the leap after his third season with the Tigers. He was a second-team all-ACC cornerback, leading Clemson with 13 pass break-ups and four interceptions, while making 74 tackles.
“Breeland, I’m so proud of that guy,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said. “Really became a leader for us this year on that back end. Quietly had a great year.”
Bryant and Breeland will share an agent: Joe Flanagan of Chicago-based BTI Sports, who also represents former Clemson defensive ends Da’Quan Bowers and Jarvis Jenkins.
There’s no guarantee either will be drafted, but the goal for less-heralded underclassmen is to compete for a Day 1 selection, when the first three rounds will commence on May 8 in New York City. Once players get outside the top 100 draft picks, guaranteed money rarely gets higher than half a million dollars on rookie contracts.
“(Bryant’s) size and speed combination is a premium that most NFL scouts covet,” Flanagan said. “It’s all about matchups at the next level, and Martavis has an opportunity to create mismatches for guys who can’t go up and go get the ball.”
As for Breeland, Flanagan said, “He’s shown straight-line improvement, all the way across the board. The things he does well you don’t have to teach — aggressiveness against the run, not fearing contact, making plays on the ball with instinct — those are the things that make the difference between good corners and great corners.”
During fall camp, Swinney lauded Bryant’s attitude adjustment after getting suspended for the 2012 Chick-fil-A Bowl after being ruled academically ineligible. Swinney reiterated that praise Saturday, recalling when he got back to his office after the team returned from Atlanta, there was Bryant awaiting him, hat in hand.
“I think we all know Martavis is going through a little bit of a transformation,” Swinney said. “I’m really proud of him, because since last January, I have not had one issue with him. Not one.
“I really didn’t even want him back. He sat in there and we had a great conversation. The best thing that happened to him was having to sit at home.”
Swinney saw a refocused, recommitted Bryant, who in Swinney’s eyes stayed consistent the entire year of 2013.
“Because he knew he had the ability to really be a special player,” Swinney said. “Great to see him have a great year this year. I have no doubt somebody’s going to get an outstanding young talent in Martavis.”
Bryant and Breeland are set to train in Boca Raton, Fla., along with their quarterback the past three years, Tajh Boyd.
“It helps me out a lot, because he’s going to have to throw to me at Pro Day,” Bryant said. “So we’re already working on our stuff now, so we’re in rhythm come Pro Day.”
Favorite memory? For Bryant, who joined in the football team’s welcome home celebration at halftime of Saturday’s basketball game against Duke, it’s the pageantry of Death Valley.
“The fans always supported me; the love that the fans gave us every Saturday,” Bryant said. “The experience I got on campus is one of the best experiences you’ll ever have. Running down the Hill, I’ll never forget that. I’m just gonna be a Tiger all my life.”
Now comes to hard part: the four-month job interview, with everything scrutinized from route-running to personal background questions.
“I’m excited about it, but at the same time, the grind doesn’t stop,” Bryant said. “I’m still continuing to learn and get better.”