Blue Devil Weekly
D. Bryant has always been an outstanding athlete. He played football, basketball, baseball and ran track as a Detroit prepster, making all-star teams in both football and basketball.
He came to Duke after being named a SuperPrep, Prep Star and National Recruiting Advisor All-America as well as an honorable mention USA Today All-America, passing for over 800 yards with nine touchdowns and just two interceptions at Cass Technical High School.
In his first year at Duke, he went through a rollercoaster ride of emotions. On the football field in the fall of 1998, he spent his time running the scout team and getting ready for a full four-year career as the Devils' quarterback. At a scrimmage session during the off week of that season, Bryant impressed everybody on the team with his ability to run the offense and play quarterback.
When football ended, Bryant was asked to join the basketball team to give the Devils a good athlete to go against each day in practice. Not only was he playing college basketball, but he was playing on the nation's top basketball team, a team that would end the season playing for the national championship. Suddenly, Bryant was a part of the Duke football and basketball teams as well as a freshman at one of the top academic schools in America. "I didn't think it was going to be that hard," explained Bryant. "In high school I played football and basketball, but it is much tougher at this level and the school work is really tough because the school is so competitive. The opportunity to play on the Duke basketball team was an experience that I just couldn't pass up. But it also hurt me because I didn't prioritize things like I should have with my work in school and playing. I just wasn't ready. I think I may have needed that knock on my
head to get me back to where I needed to be."
That knock on his head came in the form of flunking out of school and having to sit out the fall semester back home in Detroit. It was not a pleasant experience for the young man. "Everyday getting up in the morning, going to workout, having to walk around and have people ask me what I was doing home, it was embarrassing," Bryant said. "It hurt me and it hurt my parents and everybody. I thought everyday about getting back." And now he is back. No. 6 can be seen at each and every Duke spring football practice. He looks to be focused and has a renewed love for the game and the opportunity that the game has given him in life.
"I do think that it happened for a reason," Bryant said. "God has a plan for everybody and he just needed to knock me in the head, slap me on the wrist and tell me to tighten up, that if I didn't then things like this would happen. You have to stay on top of your game at all times. It really made me grow up and appreciate what I have here at Duke, and I don't want to let that slip out of my hands."
When he returned to campus in January, Bryant was focused on what he had to do to be successful. Even though he was a member of the 1999 Duke basketball team, he didn't even attend a game upon his return to campus.
"I've got to do my work, I've got to take care of my things," he said. "I just wanted to concentrate on two things, first my studies and second football. I didn't want any distractions."
At spring practice, Bryant looks to be catching on to Carl Franks' offensive system and working with his teammates.
"I can handle things a lot better now," said Bryant following a recent spring scrimmage. "Last year I didn't get to prove myself because I didn't know what I was doing. It was as simple as that, I did not know what I was doing. Now, after going through winter workouts, being around the guys, having one-on-one meetings with my coaches, it has just helped me out so much.
"It's really great being back, I couldn't wait to get back," he continued.
"As far as right now, it is a totally different change from last spring to this spring. Last spring I was coming off of basketball practice and right into football practice. The first week of spring practice there was a lot of stuff going through myhead with new plays and also school work to catch up on. This year I have had a lot more time to concentrate on my school work and the playbook for football. Right now I am much more comfortable with football and with school."
Bryant has been fortunate to get more individual attention this spring. With Spencer Romine having shoulder surgery this winter, he is sitting out spring practice and all the practice reps are going to two quarterbacks, Bryant and Bobby Campbell.
"I'm getting a lot more snaps and lot more one-on-one time with Coach (Ben) Bennett and Coach Franks," said Bryant. "Without Spencer there, I'm getting a lot more individual time, which I really needed this spring. That extra time is something that will help me in the fall."
As he learns more about the offense, Bryant looks to be very adept at running this offensive system and giving the Devils some depth at quarterback, along with a signalcaller for the future. He is a very solid athlete who can scramble out of trouble and he has a very quick release that allows him to find his receiver and move the ball down the field. "An offense wide open like this is something that I have dreamed of playing in. I can't wait until I can have every thing in my mind set and I know every play, so when I look at coverages I can audible to another play," explained Bryant. "Right now when I see a blitz coming, five or six audibles come into my head. I need to just get down to the one that I need and run the play. If I can get that together, then I could be the right guy for this offense, but I'm still learning."