In the small South Georgia town of Cordele, just off I-75, the Crisp County Cougars are on the hunt, and Markaviest "Big Cat" Bryant is leading the way. Bryant, who stands 6-foot-4 and weighs 226 pounds, is the type of player who will lay you out and then give you an engineering lesson while you collect yourself.
Bryant has led Crisp County to a 7-0 start and has put up impressive numbers this season -- 50 tackles, 31 solos, 19 assists, 18 tackles for loss, 8.5 sacks and 45 quarterback pressures.
"This all comes with teams double-teaming him or running away from him" said Crisp coach Shelton Felton, whose team is ranked No. 6.
Last week against Monroe, Bryant had three sacks and two tackles for losses.
The cerebral senior is the 13th-ranked weakside defensive end in the nation and is the 22nd best recruit in the state, according to the 24/7Sports recruiting website. He has garnered attention from nearly every Division-1 school, including Georgia Tech, Georgia, LSU, Miami, Tennessee, North Carolina, Clemson and Alabama.
He took the time Monday to discuss a number of topics in an wide-ranging Q&A.
Q. What got you to playing football?
A. Well, I grew up playing football back in rec league and have been playing since I was 7 years old. I have been at it a while. I used to play street football all the time growing up. I just grew up playing it. I never was a basketball player, so I had to find something to do. So that was my game.
Q. Who inspires you to be a better player?
A. Growing up, I always watched Demarcus Ware. That is who I watched all the time. And I watched his highlights all the time, watched him play. I grew up liking his playing a lot. And he is still in the league; he is one of the greats.
Q. Who is recruiting you hard?
A. I'd have to say Georgia, Clemson and Florida. Those are the top schools that are always hitting me up. Having Clemson and Alabama recruiting me was such a surprise. I never did put myself in playing D-1 ball or even going to college for football. And it was kind of surprising to know teams like Clemson, which was one of my first big teams to give me a scholarship, and then I got one from 'Bama and that was big and special for me. So far I have scheduled three of my five official college visits to Clemson, Alabama and LSU. I am kind of iffy on the last two; I am not sure yet. And I am still trying to plan those. Most of them I will take after the season.
Q. Do you have a favorite college team?
A. Well I did, Florida, coming into it. But when the recruiting got going, and once I started seeing that I was being recruited, for some reason all of that went out the door. There wasn't anything like me liking this team or that team. It all changed when I started being recruited.
Q. What do you look for in a college program?
A. I have to say player development and finding a great place to be successful as a player and a student. That is what I am looking for in a school, and that is what I am going to continue to do. I want to go to school for mechanical engineering. That is what I want to major in. That is what I want to do. I am really good with my hands, and I love working with my hands. So that is what I want to do.
Q. If you could spend a day with an athlete, who would it be and why?
A. I'd say Myles Garret, a Texas A&M defensive end. Why? Because I just want to see what he does. What is his plan going through there? Like, what does he do to train? Off the field? Academically? I want to see how he does that. I want to know everything. He is a potential first-round draft pick, and I want to see what it is about. He does great work. I've seen his highlights and his workout routine. He is a monster. So that is who I would like to spend a day with, if I could.
Q. How hard is it to stay in the moment, knowing so much is waiting for you in college?
A. What I can say is, I never did think I would be in this situation. It has been a long time since these college coaches have come through (Crisp County). So I just stay hungry. I don't get above myself. Sometimes I forget that I am being recruited. And once I get on the field inside those lines, I just turn it on. I don't care what time of the day it is. I don't care how cold or hot it is. Once I am between those lines, I just turn it on. It's just something about me. Every time I get on that field, I just turn it on.