CITING ITS proximity to home, location in a big city and upcoming move to Division I-FBS football, Jackson County tight end-defensive end River Bryant felt Georgia State offered enough for him to go ahead pledge his commitment to the school.
“I love that it’s downtown Atlanta,” Bryant said. “It’s close to home but it’s still going to give me a little distance away, and they’re moving up to the FBS, so that was a big thing.”
Bryant becomes the first Jackson County athlete in recent memory to commit to a Division I school.
The 6-3, 230-lb. Bryant committed to Georgia State Sept. 15 upon attending the Panthers’ Sept. 15 game against Texas-San Antonio on his unofficial visit.
“It was after the game,” Bryant said. “They told me several times that they wanted me and that it was a full-ride scholarship, so I went ahead and told them afterwards that I was committing.”
Part of the day included meeting with head coach Billy Curry, a longtime veteran of the sidelines who is retiring after this year. Curry, who has also coached at Georgia Tech, Alabama and Kentucky, started the Georgia State program in 2010.
“He’s a great coach, obviously, legendary,” Bryant said. “But I’m looking forward to moving on with the program. They’re still moving forward. I’m not there for one coach in particular. But the program is great. I’m looking forward to playing in it.”
Georgia State, only in its third year of fielding a football program, will move to the Sun Belt Conference in 2013. Bryant noted that the Panthers’ 2013 non-conference schedule includes Florida State. Georgia State played Tennessee earlier this year.
“That’s pretty exciting to play some big-time competition,” Bryant said.
Earning a scholarship to a Division I school fulfills one of Bryant’s major goals.
“I sat down with (former) coach (Billy) Kirk a few years ago and told him it that was my dream to play up at the next level and that’s something that Georgia State has given me the opportunity to do,” Bryant said.
Bryant has also drawn interest from Georgia Tech, Yale, Harvard, Jacksonville State, Furman and Auburn. He said he will take official visits to other a few schools besides Georgia State.
“That’s one thing Georgia State wanted me to go ahead and do,” Bryant said. “They told me even though your committed, go ahead and take some visits to other schools and be open with it. But they told me that they’re 100 percent committed to myself and I went ahead and told them that’s where I’m at.”
Bryant will take his official visit to Georgia State in December or January.
With his college commitment out of the way, he can focus his attention on his senior football season at Jackson County, which is off to a 3-1 start.
“Right now, I’m just focusing on high school and finishing up and trying to get our team to the playoffs for the first time in a while,” he said.
But Bryant is plenty excited about the future.
“Very excited,” he said. “I think I’m the first student-athlete in any sport since 1986 from Jackson County to go Division I, so that’s a very exciting opportunity. But once again, I’m just focused on high school and helping out this team.”