NFL DRAFT SLEEPER: Wayne County’s J.R. Bryant

J.R. Bryant from his days at William Jewell.

J.R. Bryant from his days at William Jewell.

BIRDLAND – Each year during the draft ramp-up, we strike out to find a couple of sleepers.

“There are always players coming in and contributing (as) undrafted free agents and that’s part of the fun of the process is finding those guys and scouts finding that diamond in the rough,” ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay said.

In 2006, we wrote about safety Danieal Manning from Abilene Christian and wide receiver Miles Austin from Monmouth. Manning was drafted in the second round by the Chicago Bears. Austin went undrafted, but was signed by the Cowboys. He’s been to two Pro Bowls.

In 2007, we shared the story of Jacoby Jones from Lane (Tenn.) College. He went in the third round to Houston.

Former Falcons coach Dan Reeves raved about Kevin Boss (Western Oregon) back in 2007 after working with him at an all-star game. He went to the New York Giants in the fifth round.

In 2009, we pointed out that Sammie Lee Hill (Stillman) was turning some heads. He was drafted by the Detroit Lions in the fourth round.

Last year, we just listed 10 small college guys who received invites to the NFL scouting combine.

But this year, there is a “Super Sleeper” and he’s from Georgia.

Linebacker J.R. Bryant, from Wayne County High and Jesup, played at tiny William Jewell last season and is starting to make some draft noise.

Bryant started his college career at Garden City (Kan.) Community College before signing with Oklahoma. He played for the Sooners before a misunderstanding with the coaching staff lead to him transferring to William Jewell.

He participated in Missouri’s Pro Day on March 17. He ran a 4.55 in the 40-yard dash. He has good size at 6-feet-2 ½ and 235 pounds. He also had a 10-6 broad jump and a 38 ½ vertical jump.

He also did the defensive back drills. After the workout, two NFC teams have sought more tape on Bryant.

“Things are going great,” Bryant said. “I’ve been waiting for this for a longtime. It’s a life long dream. Everything is going pretty smooth.”

He explained his problems at Oklahoma.

“In the summer of ‘09 I had to come home and help my mother work,” Bryant said. “She lost her job. At D-I programs, there are several workouts that are not mandatory, but I guess they hold it against you. So it was like a forced redshirt year.

“If we could have talked about it, maybe we could have worked something out. They didn’t talk to me about it, so I felt disrespected and left out. So, I decided to leave.”

He landed a William Jewell, a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) in Kansas City.

“I had a pretty good season,” Bryant said. “All I wanted to do was play ball. Playing my last year helped me out a lot with my dream. I’m just anxious to see what goes on from here.”

He had 63 tackles, seven tackles for loss, two sacks, three pass breakups, one fumble recovery and one interception.

“I played outside, but I’m being evaluated at all of the positions,” Bryant said. “Not only am I good at rushing the passer, but I’m also good in coverage, zone or man-to-man. Whatever they want me to play, I’m going to play.”

When he was leaving Garden City, he had offers from Nebraska, Texas Tech, West Virginia and Oklahoma State.

He’s not sure if he’ll get drafted.

“That’s the goal, but just getting invited to a camp where I could get my foot in the door would be great,” Bryant said. “If I get the opportunity, I’m going to make sure that I work hard so that I can make the team. I have a workout for a team on April 12th. If they want to call and work me out, I’m willing to do it.”

–D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog

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35 comments Add your comment


March 30th, 2011
10:09 am


March 30th, 2011
10:13 am

I hope that the owners can get over their lust for money, and that there will be a NFL season in 2011(not with subs/faux players).

D. Orlando Ledbetter

March 30th, 2011
10:22 am

I’ve been talking to a lot of legal eagles this week. It seems that many think that the law is on the players’ side for this upcoming hearing. Will have a big story on Sunday.


March 30th, 2011
10:52 am

It is spelled Jesup…..


March 30th, 2011
11:27 am

D. Led have you heard of the Falcons players organizing any group training like the Texans or the Dolphins have done?


March 30th, 2011
11:36 am

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think there will be any undrafted free agent signings after the draft unless there is some type of settlement regarding the CBA prior to the draft. At that time the undrafted players would be classified the same as any other free agent.


March 30th, 2011
11:42 am

He’s a SEC football player…….has he been arrested?

Maybe the answer is……”not yet but there’s always tomorrow.”


March 30th, 2011
12:01 pm

their are a lot of good player that go undrated he could be one.


March 30th, 2011
12:09 pm

no recivers in rd 1…. They cant sack the qb…


March 30th, 2011
12:12 pm

I would like to see them trade up a couple of picks and get Heyward.


March 30th, 2011
12:38 pm

Owners wanted to change what was already in place with the work agreement, just for the greed of another billion dollars….The blame goes to the owners wanting to get their hands on another billion dollars……

Boycott the Draft

March 30th, 2011
12:46 pm

Don’t support the greedy league or its greedy players

Old Dog

March 30th, 2011
12:52 pm

There should be no union!

andy myers

March 30th, 2011
12:54 pm

How can I receive an invitation to try out for the Birds. I am playing semi pro football now, 6′1″,275 plbs,fast,hard to tackle,just need an invite. Thanks Andy


March 30th, 2011
1:03 pm

Old Dog @12:52…….Why?

F-105 Thunderchief

March 30th, 2011
1:08 pm


March 30th, 2011
1:44 pm

I was wondering what happened to J.R. Not that he needs it, I can vouch for his need to work to help his mother. I work out at the track in Jesup almost every evening. This is where I met this outstanding young man. We got to where we had regular conversations and he was always very polite and respectful. I looked for him during the Sooner games and in the stats so I assumed something must have happened. If he does get his chance in the NFL, I won’t be surprised if he ends up on a team’s roster. They will get a great person and a great athlete.


March 30th, 2011
3:50 pm

J.R is a great player. Im very proud to see him reaching his dreams.

Mike Jay

March 30th, 2011
5:52 pm

Old dog,

Technically there is no union right now.


March 30th, 2011
6:23 pm

HBCU Classic Sports Draft Board 2011 (11-21)

11. Jason House 5′11,185 FS Southn 10 ints 2009
12. Chris Adingupu 6’0, 189 FS PView All-SWAC
13. Phillip Sylvester 5’9, 185 RB FAMU All-MEAC, 4.39/40
14. Ray Webber 6′2, 218 WR UAPB FCS All-American
15. David Mims 6’8, 348 OT VA Union 3x All-CIAA
16. Josh Harrison 6’4, 285 OG SC State All-MEAC, 3x MEAC Champ
17. Dejuan Fulghum 6’0, 220 OLB Tx South 2010 SWAC Defensive POY
18. DeAngelo Branche 6′0 220 RB Norfolk FCS All-American
19. Andre Carroll 6’4, 280 DT Del St. FCS All-American
20. Frank Kearse 6′4, 302 DE Ala AM 2x All-SWAC
21. Marshall McFadden 6’1, 230 LB SC State All-MEAC,3xMEAC Champ


March 30th, 2011
9:30 pm

This Bryant character is from UGA! LOL! He’s a sleeper alright, in a bonifide coma. He’d fit perfectly with the falcan’t defense,


March 30th, 2011
10:05 pm

Let’s just all get on the same page. Yes, owners too. We all thrive on the same small planet. We went to a satellite launch tonight which brought home to me how this really is one small world and we do NOT have to have this craziness.


March 30th, 2011
11:16 pm

SeenThisB4 – do you really think anyone on here wants to hear your negative, unfounded, not-backed-up BS? Take your game back to the middle school playground

Rick Cole

March 31st, 2011
7:31 am

I am the play by play voice of William Jewell, and wish JR the best…he saw so many teams key on him this fall that we truly did not get a chance to see him put up great stats, but what a talent. Hopefully, he’ll get a shot…great kid, great story.

Ron "CHOKE" Mexico

March 31st, 2011
7:46 am

“They didn’t talk to me” maybe he should have explained the situation to the coaches first, before he went home. Sounds like an attitude problem.

DC Dirty Bird

March 31st, 2011
9:23 am

SeenThisB4 – Really? I mean really? Ron Mexico, he didn’t get kicked off the team, he left the team. “They didn’t talk to me” sounds like he was trying to work a deal and the coaches were too busy for him. Kid leaves school to help his mom instead of taking money from boosters and people want to find reasons to knock him. Terrible.


March 31st, 2011
10:52 am

I know J.R.very well. He is an outstanding young man. I had the pleasure of teaching him in high school. I have remained close to him since. I don’t have students like him often. He is one of the hardest working people that I know. He is also always very polite and respectful and would be the LAST person to have an attitude problem. He does spend his summers working to help his mom. He also spends much of his time working out and training. In what little free time he has, he helps to take care of his nieces and nephews. I don’t know a lot about football, but I do know that any team would be fortunate to have someone with the talent, work ethic and character of J.R..

Ken Strickland

March 31st, 2011
4:34 pm

MARK-Don’t get so upset with SEENTHISB4, because he’s only trying to help. You see, he’s just trying to keep us from making the same personnel mistakes his SORRY A$$ AINTS have been making. He wants to help us avoid signing the same type of players that caused his SORRY A$$ AINTS DEF to finish TWENTY NINTH(29)in total DEF. AT LEAST I THINK THAT’S WHAT HE’S TRYING TO DO, HEE, HEE.

Everyone should read TIM’S negative 11:42AM Mar 30th comments, and then compare them to the 1:44PM Mar 30 comments made by LADAWG and the 10:52SAM Mar 31 comments made by MJJ. Do you see how you get a totally opposite opinion from those who actually know and interact with the young man, compared to the negative minded opinion from a moron who ASS-U-ME(s), and relies totally on sterotypical biases?

Aparently TIM was standing in front of a mirror when he made those assumptions.

Bobby Walthour

April 1st, 2011
2:23 am

J.R. grew up in the same city as myself. He was a close friend of my younger sister. I can definitely vouch for his character, ethics and his athleticism. I know he’s got what it takes to make it in the NFL. He’s been dedicated to the sport since he was a kid. I wish you the best J.R. & I’m proud of you Fam.


April 1st, 2011
8:39 am

Two words for Mr Bryant! Speacial Teams! We can use you.


April 1st, 2011
9:52 am

Its funny how people hate to see other people succed in life I am very proud of you big cousin and hope you make it regardless of what the people who know nothing about your life are situation think. I Love You


April 3rd, 2011
3:24 am

As usual …irrelevant news story. Uh…what about the Falons. I assume you don’t like to drive up to Gwinnett…


April 3rd, 2011
4:56 pm

Tim you seem very ignorant to say something so demeaning and negative about someone you dont know.If you would have paid attention he left because he loves his family and wanted to helpout,doesnt soundlike bad attitude to me. It seems like you may have a problem with yourself and others success. I hope Jr get to live out his dreams and more. He is a well respectable young man who deserves everything that GOD and Life has to offer you. I hope he have so many more Tim’s out there cause ppl like you and fuel him to do more and BETTER.


April 3rd, 2011
9:10 pm

I think this is a really great young man and I do not like the negative comments of people who do not know this young man before you speak you should know what you are speaking about before you post it on the commputer one thing I am sure about GOD is in full control.

Gregory Moundine

April 4th, 2011
10:06 pm

Best of Luck Homeboy! If they found Shannon Sharpe, they will find you!