With his NFL future at stake, Bryant felt at peace with resuming that role one more time.
More than a dozen Buckeyes worked out in front of roughly 80 scouts from all 32 NFL teams for Pro Day on March 7, but Bryant wasn't one of them. In his quest to recover from a broken ankle sustained in the final minute against Wisconsin on Sept. 28, the former Cleveland Glenville star isn't taking any chances.
He said that he's getting closer to 100 percent and is doing all the drills he'll have to perform in front of scouts but hasn't performed them at full speed out of fear of suffering a setback that would end his chances of showcasing his ability before the NFL Draft. Having already waited long enough, missing out on opportunities like his senior season and the NFL Combine, Bryant doesn't mind waiting slightly longer to display his newly healed ankle. His current plan is to work out in front of scouts in either April or May, which helped ease the sting of not being able to participate at OSU's Pro Day.
"It wasn't really that tough because I know where I'm at in this process," Bryant said. "I wanted to of course be here for the scouts and just be here for my teammates, cheer them on a little bit."
His injury – sustained on the second-to-last defensive snap of a 31-24 win – led to Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer slamming the podium in frustration during his postgame press conference, devastated at the loss of a senior captain who was a steady presence in the defensive backfield. Bryant's physical pain has long subsided, but he's also worked to erase the mental anguish that came with it.
"That's behind me now, to be honest with you," he said. "Like I said before, everything happens for a reason. I'm not quite sure why it happened just yet, but I mean, I'm pretty sure I'll figure it out sometime here soon."
It's not hard to interpret that last sentence. Bryant firmly believes he'll be drafted and felt comfortable admitting as much to a crowd of reporters assembled around him following the Pro Day festivities.
He's also done his homework on the matter. It was pointed out to him that Philadelphia Eagles safety Kurt Coleman, who was present in the Woody Hayes Athletic Center that day, had a similar height and build to Bryant, who is listed at 5-10 and 193 pounds on his Ohio State bio.
When asked if seeing Coleman gave him hope that a player of his size could succeed in the NFL, Bryant didn't hesitate. He immediately rattled off three All-Pro safeties who measure at 5-10 and weigh between 202 and 207 pounds.
"If you look at the safeties in the NFL, the best safeties right now aren't even above 6-0," Bryant said. "You've got Earl Thomas, you've got Jairus Byrd, you've got Troy Polamalu – none of those guys are above 6-0. It's not really about the physical attributes. It's about how you prepare for a game, how you attack the whole situation and you've got to be fearless out there."
Thanks to the play of guys like Thomas, who starred throughout the Seahawks' Super Bowl run, safeties are more coveted than ever in the NFL. On March 11, the first day of free agency, Byrd received a six-year, $54 million contract from the New Orleans Saints.
Copy cat league ..#NFL— Earl Thomas (@Earl_Thomas) March 12, 2014
Will Bryant one day get the opportunity to showcase his abilities on the highest stage? Even though he missed the two biggest chances to perform in front of NFL talent evaluators, he pointed out that his career in Columbus speaks for itself.
"I've got film from four years now here," he said. "It's not like I never played a snap here. It's on tape."
And when he does finally set up a workout with pro teams, he won't be looking to show them that he's as good as he once was – he's aiming to be better.
"I just want to show that I'm back at 100 percent – can cut, can break, didn't lose a step," he said. "Maybe I gained a step or two with this comeback."