NFL draft: Ohio State's Bryant on road back following ankle injury

By The Columbus Dispatch  • 
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Kyle Robertson | Dispatch
Christian Bryant is expected to be a late-round pick in the NFL draft or a high-priority free agent.

Christian Bryant had a list of goals he wanted to accomplish his senior season at Ohio State:

Be an All-America safety. Have 10 interceptions. Score at least a couple of touchdowns. Be a leader on a championship team.

In sum, he wanted to etch his name as one of the greats in Ohio State lore.

Instead, Bryant’s season ended with an ankle injury at the end of the Wisconsin game in late September. It has been a long recovery. Bryant estimates that he is 90 percent back.

But he is optimistic he will hear his name called during this week’s NFL draft.

“Everything I didn’t accomplish in college I plan on accomplishing in the NFL,” Bryant said.

Bryant had a workout last week at Ohio State that was attended by several teams.

“The teams that were there let me know that I was a lot further in the (recovery) process than they thought I would be,” he said. “I thought that was a good sign.”

Bryant said conditioning is the last piece to the rehab puzzle.

“I started running full speed just a month ago,” he said. “I’m still trying to get back to my natural self. I’m still lacking those last couple burst steps.”

Bryant revealed that his injury was more serious than previously known. In addition to suffering a broken lower fibula, it also was dislocated.

“If it wasn’t for the dislocation, I could have been back to 100 percent a lot faster than what I am right now,” Bryant said. “But it’s something that I’ve overcome. All I’m doing is looking forward.”

Bryant was considered the leader on the Buckeyes’ 2013 defense. After his injury, Ohio State was unable to replace his play-making and leadership. That was most glaring in the Buckeyes’ final three games, when their pass-defense shortcomings were fully exposed against Michigan and then in losses to Michigan State and Clemson.

As frustrating as it was for Bryant, he said he never got discouraged. He credits his teammates, OSU’s staff and his family and friends for their encouragement.

“This was a tough year for him, but I don’t think I saw him put his head down once,” Ohio State offensive tackle Jack Mewhort said. “He had a smile on his face. He stayed positive. He didn’t stay away from the program when he was hurt. He’s a great person, and he’s a competitor.”

Despite missing Ohio State’s final nine games, Bryant was named one of the Buckeyes’ six permanent captains for 2013.

“The way I see him competing, his intensity and fire, and the way he cares about the game, I don’t think there’s any doubt in my mind that he’s going to be an NFL football player,” Mewhort said.

Bryant is projected as a late-round pick in the draft, which runs from Thursday through Saturday, or a high-priority free agent. He said he considered himself a first- or second-rounder before the injury.

Now he just wants to see his name on the scroll.

“That’ll probably be the most excited I’ve been in a while, just because it’s something I’ve been waiting on my entire life,” Bryant said. “Ever since I started playing football, I’ve had it in the back of my mind that I want to play in the NFL.”

But if he has to break into the NFL as a free agent, Bryant will be undaunted.

“It would leave me a little disappointed, but it would put more fuel in my fire,” Bryant said. “If I don’t get drafted, it’ll make me work that much harder. I know what I’m capable of.

“I know how it feels when football has been taken away from you. It makes me work that much harder just to make an impact wherever I land.”

brabinowitz@dispatch.com

@brdispatch

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