By: Ken LaVicka
Forget the Real Housewives of Miami or any one of the other shallow, concocted reality shows based out of South Florida. The region’s best reality show originates out of Delray Beach, and it belongs to a teenager.
Atlantic DT Keith Bryant.
The 6-2, 302 lb. four-star prospect has re-defined the art of drawing attention to one’s self during the recruiting process.
“A lot of fun. It’s a lot of fun,” says Bryant of the lead-up to next Wednesday’s National Signing Day.
In an era of highly-publicized, nationally-televised college selection ceremonies featuring young adults soaking in the spotlight and making themselves stars by picking a hat off of a table, Bryant has found a way to take it a step further.
Bryant has used social media, particularly Twitter, as his main source of intrigue. He’s become a must-follow for media and football fans alike.
He has dozens of college offers, some from big boys like Florida State, Miami, Florida, Arkansas, USC, South Carolina, Ohio State, and Georgia. He’s had other offers from lesser-known’s like FAU, FIU, Marshall and Arkansas State. It seems like every school in the country has recruited Bryant, and he wants people to think almost all of these schools still have a chance to enjoy his services.
“I’m very wanted,” Bryant says matter-of-factly. “I’m very wanted. I probably have about ten coaches call me a day, from like different schools, some I’ve told I’m not even interested in no more. They still call just to like, I don’t know, just to like talk.”
Bryant has done a remarkable job of not giving anyone any sort of hint about which school he’ll select. It’s been this way for months. A former Miami commit, he’s made sure to wear Hurricanes gear in public. He’s rocked Florida State swag. He talks up South Carolina and tweets about Tennessee. Bryant recently took his final official visit to Boca Raton-based Florida Atlantic, the newly-minted Conference USA program that’s won 4 games in the last two years.
“I thought about [FAU]. It’s right there, it’s close. I just thought about taking it because you never know, I might get interested in them. I might be the first four-star they’ve ever had. I could make history.
“I was going to shut it down with all my recruiting but if FAU, they make me happy, something might happen."
A giggling Bryant made those comments about Florida Atlantic prior to his visit last weekend. It didn't go well. In a story first reported by OwlAccess.com, he and Atlantic teammate Todney Evans were kicked out of the visit for childish behavior. So much for that.
Bryant's eclectic yet at times childish behavior allows him to do what he's does best over the last several months: Offer hope to the college football masses. He keeps the door open a crack, even for the most unlikely of suitors. Like FAU for example.
“Yeah it’s fun to keep people on their toes, keep them guessing, because nobody really knows where I’m gonna go,” explains Bryant. “Like the other day I tweeted #SemiCaneVolCock or something like that. I forgot actually."
Bryant actually sent out the following, a reference to FSU, Tennessee, UM and Auburn. Or LSU. Or Clemson. Who knows:
“I just tweet dumb stuff, not inappropriate things, but things that’ll make people think ‘what is he gonna do?’. It’s just fun,” says Bryant.
Bryant consistently re-tweets fans of the many programs coming after him, the lonely souls who derive enjoyment from tweeting at teens, begging prospects to play for their favorite school. None of that bothers Bryant. He’s more than willing to acknowledge them and play along.
He’ll tweet broad messages to Miami fans, Tennessee supporters, Arkansas die-hards. It doesn’t matter. He even falsely "broke" the news that teammate Brisly Estime had committed to NC State last week as a joke. It’s all part of the fun.
In all seriousness, Bryant is anxious for next week’s National Signing Day. This is the day he's been waiting for. It’s on national television. ESPN.
Of course it is.
“That’s very cool,” exclaims Bryant, his eyes lighting up at the mere mention of his upcoming foray into television. “When I got the message, about two weeks ago, saying that [ESPN] wanted to record my Signing Day, I felt very honored and very blessed to have that, but I felt like I deserved that as well, because I showed my talent on the field.
“In all of this recruiting deal, whatever, I guess I’m a big deal, a big prospect they want to have.”
Bryant is a friendly kid. He’s quick to smile and tell a joke. He’s been called immature and unfocused in the past. He’s gone through trying times like missing his sophomore season due to poor grades and fathering a daughter while in high school.
Bryant, however, has worked his tail off over the past two seasons. His mentality can be interpreted in many different ways, but there are no doubts when it comes to how immensely talented he is.
Bryant returned to the field for his junior season and immediately turned heads amongst college recruiters. This past year he not only dominated along the defensive line, but he also started at left tackle for the final half of the campaign with the coaching staff desperate for quarterback protection. He was a hit. Atlantic went on to win its first district title since 2008.
Success like that draws stardom in high school. Does Bryant consider himself a “big man on campus”? The good, old-fashioned “BMOC”? Well…yes.
“My tenth grade year I didn’t play football, my junior year they were just like, ‘OK Keith’s playing, he’s doing good.’
“Now there’s a lot of coaches, people like, kinda like praise me now. Not praise me, but they speak [to me] now. They always smile when they see me…a lot of people smile when they see me for some reason.”
While Bryant’s over-the-top lead-up to his college decision appears amazingly calculated, his confusion, hesitancy and flip-flopping have really defined his recruiting timeline, common traits amongst major blue-chippers.
“I committed [to Miami] because that was my first offer,” admits Bryant. “I always wanted to go to Miami, but as a the role went on, thoughts came to my head. ‘Am I sure this is what I want to do? Am I sure I want to be here for the next four years of my life?’, so I had to think about it.
“That’s why I had to de-commit, because I don’t want to commit, then official visit other schools, because the schools I visited, that could be the school I’m going to go to, so I didn’t want to stay committed and have them upset.”
Bryant’s selection process was also affected by his young daughter and how she would be cared for.
“At first it was about distance, but then I talked it over with my mom. She’s gonna handle that. My daughter’s mom is gonna be there to handle that, and my brother is going to help me as well. He’s been helping now with that.
“I thank God for them. I’m blessed to have them. [I know] they will be there to help take care of my daughter, so I’m gonna be alright at school then. I won’t have any worries.”
Bryant has clarity these days. He says he knows where he’s going…at least until FAU makes its pitch this weekend.
Bryant envisions four hats sitting on the table during his ceremony next Wednesday: Miami, Florida State, South Carolina and FAU. He’ll flash his toothy grin at the ESPN cameras and drink in the exposure.
“I got a trick, too. I’m going to do something nobody ever did on Signing Day. I’ve got a trick.”
Bryant has already revolutionized the recruitment “game”, so of course he’s going to introduce a brand new wrinkle to Signing Day.
He doesn’t want you to miss his “show”.
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