When former Austin Peay defensive back Juantarius Bryant received a text from the 404 area code early this month, he believed he was going to get a legitimate chance to pursue his NFL dream. Except the person contacting him was not Atlanta Falcons defensive coordinator Dean Pees—or anyone else connected with the team. So it was more than a bit awkward when he arrived in Flowery Branch last Wednesday to participate in the team’s rookie minicamp, only to be turned away.
“When [the texter] told me they [had] a spot for me at the rookie minicamp, my heart just started racing,” Bryant said in an interview with The All State (Austin Peay’s student newspaper), one that was published on May 7. “It made me start thinking ‘hard work really does pay off.’ I had sacrificed so many things just to get an opportunity that a lot of other people would have folded had they been in my position.
“The first thing I did was call my parents and tell my fiancé,” he added, “because they have been in my corner the whole time that I have been going through this and staying in my ear telling me not to give up.”
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Juantarius Bryant Revealed What Happened via Twitter
The story behind what happened became public when Bryant tweeted about it, calling it “one of the most embarrassing things that has ever happened to me and a very humbling experience. [I] just want to apologize to everyone and the Atlanta Falcons organization for the mix up. I honestly thought it was a legit opportunity on my end.”
To date, Bryant has declined to speak publicly about what happened, though his Nashville-based agent tweeted that he has been in touch with the Falcons, saying, “all parties involved are frustrated, but [Bryant] will get his opportunity soon.”
“I am ready to move on from the situation and respectfully I do not feel like talking about it over and over again,” Bryant wrote in an email to ESPN. “Yes, whoever did this to me is very wrong, but I’m moving on from the situation and I forgive them for whatever reason they chose to do it.”
Bryant’s Career at Austin Peay
Bryant—5-foot-9 and 195 pounds—is a Nashville native who originally walked on at Austin Peay but rose to 2019 first-team All-Ohio Valley Conference status after earning second-team honors in 2018.
Over the course of 43 career games he recorded a total of 242 tackles (131 solo), including 8.5 tackles for loss, eight passes defensed, one interception, three forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.
But he went undrafted in 2020 and was not signed as an undrafted free agent. Nor did he receive any rookie minicamp invites last year, according to the aforementioned All State article.
Sadly, hoax messages purporting to come from representatives of NFL teams probably aren’t all that unusual.
In a reply to Bryant’s tweet, Icon Sports Consulting revealed that a few years ago one of its clients received a call pretending to be the Falcons. Icon Sports went on to recommend that Bryant get in touch with NFL/NFLPA security.
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